JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted to hire a Saratoga County firm to design a system to possibly consolidate all water and sewer services within the county.
The board voted 14-4 - with two absences - to execute a $50,000 agreement with Environmental Design Partnership of Clifton Park to prepare a model for a so-called "SMART Waters" system.
Voting against the contract were: Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy, Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter, Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Michael A. Ponticello and Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Richard Ottalagano.
Supervisor Linda Kemper, second from left, makes a point about
potential water and sewer
during the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Monday at the County
Office Building in Johnstown.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
Handy said he doesn't believe Glove Cities officials agree with the county's plan. He also said administrators in the county could prepare a proposal without hiring a company to do it.
"We have enough smart people who could hammer out an agreement," Handy said.
But several supervisors in favor of the contract cited a need to make Fulton County's abundant water and sewer services available, especially outside the two cities, to attract new businesses while cutting high property taxes.
Here are a few details about the
Fulton County Board of Supervisors' SMART Waters proposal:
Contract with Environmental Design Partnership of Clifton Park.
Contract price: $50,000.
Purpose of contract: Prepare a model for possible consolidation of water and sewer services.
"People in Gloversville, right now, are not in favor of this," said Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born.
But Born said the county board owes it to all the county's residents to at least look into consolidating water and sewer services.
"This is simply a study," added Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper.
Kemper said if Glove Cities' officials don't agree with consolidation, the plan doesn't move forward, but she said the county has to at least gather more information.
"Without a plan, we have no idea what to discuss," she said.
There are six municipal water systems in the county. They are in the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown, the villages of Broadalbin, Mayfield and Northville, and at Sacandaga Park in Northampton.
There are five municipal wastewater operations. They are in the two cities, the villages of Broadalbin and Mayfield, and Sacandaga Park.
"I also have to look out for the future of Fulton County," said Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr., who spent 22 years as a Gloversville councilman.
Lauria said the county has outstanding facilities such as Nathan Littauer Hospital and Fulton-Montgomery Community College and "we need to grow."
He said Gloversville lost $100,000 in water revenue when the former Tryon Detention Facility in Perth closed two years ago.
"I want jobs," Lauria said. "I want to improve the college. I want to improve everything here."
Broadalbin Supervisor Joseph DiGiacomo said it may be "short sighted" on the part of Glove Cities' officials if they reject what the county is doing now.
"We have nowhere to go if we don't grow," said Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan. "This is a perfect opportunity, at this time, to get this county to take off."
Officials from Gloversville and Johnstown have been skeptical in recent weeks about a county system. Some officials say the individual systems work fine now and they would lose control of their water and sewer systems under the county plan. They also fear the state may get involved in setting future water and sewer rates. Other concerns include having city taxpayers pay twice - for a city system and county system.
Additional concerns include whether those who don't have water and sewer services would be forced to be part of the system.
Another concern is whether taxes would go up under such a system and whether it would be another unwanted layer of government, officials from the cities have said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.