JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to seek proposals to study the possible consolidation of municipal water and sewer services in the county.
Efforts by eight county supervisors to block seeking proposals failed. The Board of Supervisors defeated a motion in an 11-8 vote to table the resolution to seek the proposals.
The board then voted 18-1 to authorize requests for proposals, or RFPs, to prepare models for a county water and sewer system. Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter voted no.
Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. speaks to the Fulton County Board of Supervisors about water and sewer
issues Monday at the County Office
Johnstown. At right is Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery.
"I do feel we need to receive proposals for this concept," said Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Ponticello. "[But] I think the process needs to be explained to the municipalities."
He said the county should communicate better with the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown, adding there is "no big rush here."
Supervisors Monday debated how the issue is being handled.
Two Gloversville officials also spoke.
"I think we can also be studying how we can share costs as well," Gloversville Mayor Dayton King said before urging the board to table the resolution seeking proposals.
Gloversville 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said the county should have spoken to the two cities about the issue first.
"I think you put the cart before the horse," she said.
Late in the meeting, the board passed a motion to have county Planning Director James Mraz give a presentation to both cities' common councils before the next county Board of Supervisors meeting.
"This is the very, very preliminary start to look at this issue," said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.
Some officials from both cities and the county criticized the plan to seek proposals, which eventually may lead to combining all water and sewer operations into one county operation. The main criticism involves the county not notifying the cities and other municipalities about their intentions.
Mraz recently told board committees that RFPs will be sought from engineering and legal firms to evaluate what he said are four "models." The models may involve creation of a county water and sewer "authority" or "district," and eventually could entail the purchase of existing water systems or at least the purchase of certain capacity from the systems, officials said.
Proposals would be due June 12, with the county hiring a consultant in July. The consultant's final report would be submitted to the county in October.
There are six municipal water systems operating in the county in the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown; villages of Broadalbin, Mayfield and Northville; and at Sacandaga Park in the town of Northampton. There are five municipal wastewater operations: the two cities, villages of Broadalbin and Mayfield and Sacandaga Park.
"I feel that this is how, at the county level, we get things started," said board Chairman William Waldron.
Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. said the county plan was "done wrong to begin with." He said the cities are the ones who built the water and sewer systems and "they need to get something in return."
Broadalbin Supervisor Joseph DiGiacomo said the water and sewer consolidation "conversation" has to start with the county.
"The cities are going to be a major part of this," said Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery.
But Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born stated, "I think the cities felt like they were snubbed."
Bleecker Supervisor David Howard said the county "has to start somewhere" to improve the water and sewer systems and promote more development in the area to keep taxes down.
"I don't think this is a turf war," Howard said. "I think this is biting the bullet, getting it started."
Howard said Bleecker likely won't benefit from this county plan, but added: "I want to see something."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.