JOHNSTOWN - Fulton County supervisors want to move forward with creating a regional water and wastewater system administered through the county's existing water and sewer agency and commence discussions with local municipal leaders to seek excess capacity.
County Planning Director James Mraz cautioned Wednesday the county's "SMART Waters" initiative should not be misinterpreted as one that advocates forcefully taking over any existing municipal water or sewer system. He said it does not involve consolidation.
"We will work cooperatively," Mraz said.
He said each municipality is obligated to provide their utilities to their own customers, and they will be "keeping their systems," providing excess capacity to the county only if they are willing. He said the municipalities have the option of selling a piece of their systems or all of their systems to the county, but the county can't force them to do anything they don't wish.
Six municipal water systems are in the county. They are in Gloversville and Johnstown, the villages of Broadalbin, Mayfield and Northville, and in the Sacandaga Park section of Northampton. There are five wastewater operations: for Gloversville, Johnstown, the villages of Broadalbin and Mayfield and in Sacandaga Park.
Mraz said he briefed the Board of Supervisors' Economic Development and Environment Committee on Tuesday and presented a proposed resolution that passed unanimously. That resolution - subject to full board approval May 12 -supports "creation of a regional water and wastewater system."
Committee Chairman Michael F. Gendron said Friday the county has made several cuts in government in recent years and "there's not much more to cut." Now, he said, the county must do bold initiatives to bring in economic development.
"If you believe in economic development, there's two key elements - water and sewer," Gendron said.
The proposed resolution authorizes the Fulton County Water and Sewer Agency - created in July 2012 in conjunction with water lines and services extended a decade ago to Fulton-Montgomery Community College and Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, and administered by the board - to "commence discussions with local municipalities."
Mraz said utilization of the existing county agency is key to accomplishing the initiative.
"We spent a fair amount of time discussing that," Mraz said. "The county [created] that years ago."
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors last July hired Environmental Design Partnership to determine the feasibility of a system that can pursue receipt of water and sewer services from municipalities within the county. The Clifton Park firm released its findings to the county April 14, determining county government can successfully put a limited regional water and sewer system into place.
Mraz said Environmental Design Partnership is encouraging the county to "use that structure" of the existing water and sewer agency to pursue excess municipal water and sewer capacity instead of creating "a whole new authority."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.