MALTA -- In the Maltaville section of town, residents like Helene Brecker have been complaining about the quality of their well water for years and have been frustrated at the failure of town efforts to get public water to the neighborhood.
Other residents have seen their wells run dry, sometimes repeatedly.
"There's issues with wells going dry, over and over, throughout the area," said Town Councilman Craig Warner, chairman of the town's Water and Sewer Committee.
Town officials have come up with a new plan, and for the first time will be asking residents in a public referendum whether they want to form a water district. The $4.67 million plan would bring water from the Saratoga County Water Authority to 176 properties in Maltaville. The district would draw water from the authority's trunk line at routes 9 and 67, and would serve properties on Knapp Road, Route 9 from Round Lake to Woodfield Boulevard, Easy Street, Route 67 east from Route 9 to the Stillwater town line, Lake Ridge Road, Old State Road, Dugan Hill Road, and County Route 80/Maltaville Road.
The plan, which would cost about $1,400 per year per household for debt service and water purchases, will go before voters in a Feb. 4 referendum.
"We need to do it, because nobody wants to buy a house that's on a well," said Brecker, a therapist who has lived in the historic hamlet for 41 years. She doesn't drink the water, though she uses it for cooking.
The vote will take place from noon until 9 p.m. at the Malta Town Hall, and only property owners in the affected area are eligible to vote. Rules allow every voter with a deed interest in a property to vote, but the owners of multiple properties can only vote once. There are 236 property owners eligible to vote, town officials said.
The town acknowledges that many residents have experienced varying and declining water capacity and quality in recent years -- a decline Brecker said started around the time of blasting for the Round Lake bypass built in 2008, which rattled the shale the neighborhood sits own.
"That's certainly the perception of a lot of residents," said Town Supervisor Darren O'Connor, though he said there is no proof the blasting caused the problems.
The Town Board last year commissioned Chazen Engineering to study the best way to form a water district. It delivered its report in October.
"We're taking the Chazen report and trying to figure out how to maximize benefits," O'Connor said. "Normally the best way to keep costs down is to have more units connected, rather than fewer."
The cost would include construction of six miles of water distribution line as well as related equipment. The plan would allow for future interconnections with the Stillwater, Round Lake and Saratoga Water Services systems. Town officials already have a contract for Stillwater to administer and maintain the water district, if it is formed.
“We have studied this issue for a long time to come up with the most economic approach to getting our residents clean drinking water," Warner said. "We’re acting to be as responsible as possible in undertaking this important public infrastructure project. I’ve personally spent more than three years balancing neighborhood needs against costs and feel this is the best path forward for our neighbors.”
He, like Brecker, said that when all costs for treating well water are balanced against the cost of town water, the two costs are close.
"People have had to clear their filters every day; it cost us a lot of money," Brecker said.
Town officials said fire hydrants would also be installed as part of the project, which could bring down town residential fire insurance rates.
The town has sought grant funding, but a high average household income means Malta doesn't qualify for need-based grants, O'Connor said. "With today’s low-interest rates, this could be the best time to undertake such financing," he said.
Warner said he's working with the office of state Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, on the possibility of getting economic development grants, but he said they won't be available unless the district is approved.
Eligible property owners have already been sent a letter about the plan and will receive a reminder post card in the next week or two, town officials said.
If the majority of the voters vote in favor of the district, the town will proceed with developing the district, with construction probably taking place in 2021.
Town officials said they will move on to infrastructure projects elsewhere in town if voters reject the plan. The town was recently awarded $38,000 in state funding toward developing a townwide water and sewer service plan.