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Fulton County backs regional water initiative

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - Updated: 8:10 AM

By CAROLINE MURRAY

caroline.murray@recordernews.com

JOHNSTOWN -- The Fulton County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Monday to endorse the regional SMART Waters initiative -- the county's proposed regional water and wastewater system.

Officials appeared enthusiastic about the endorsement, with the exception of Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young, who voted against it.

Young said he strongly supports economic development in the county, but believes expansion of water services should coincide with annexation.

"Depending on how we implement this project, we may encourage suburban sprawl and encourage the decline of our cities," Young said.

He said he would like to see the county develop a regional growth plan before diving into the SMART water initiative.

Young was concerned the initiative would invite large-scale retailers, who would draw customers away from small mom-and-pop businesses. He said he would like to know which manufacturers and large-scale industries the county is trying to attract with the SMART water proposal before moving forward with the project.

"We need to proceed with caution," he said.

The Single-Model Adaptable Regional Transmission Water System, or SMART Water, was initiated in May last year, when the board of supervisors pursued Jump-Start Fulton County.

It's a plan designed to expand the local economy, and provide new revenues and benefits to all governments within the county lines.

The board hired Environmental Design Partnership, an engineering firm from Clifton Park, to research the feasibility of a regional water and wastewater system, and to conduct an engineered findings report.

The report looks at utilizing existing municipal water systems in the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown, villages of Broadalbin and Mayfield, and the town of Northampton to create one large regional system.

Additionally, the developers are looking at purchasing raw water from the city of Amsterdam.

The engineer presented the research to the board at a special press conference last month.

After the conference, the details of the plan were distributed among county officials for them to review before Monday's board meeting.

The report outlines the existing water and sewer service providers in the county, provides recommendations for the potential SMART Water initiative, and research about existing systems in New York state.

Based on the research, the firm believes a regional water and wastewater system can be successfully implemented in the county.

"We need to take the next step. It is the only way properties will be developed," Perth Supervisor Gregory Fagan said before the resolution was adopted. "I 100 percent support this and I believe the board should support this."

Many of the board members echoed Fagan's enthusiasm, including Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy.

Handy said he was originally against the initiative, but after reviewing the details, sees how the plan might contribute to decreasing taxes.

Handy said he has heard residents express concerns about the county trying to take control of water treatment. He said the county is only asking to use a portion of the municipalities' unused capacity.

"This is the way to go," he said.

Also in support of the project are Fulton-Montgomery Community College president Dustin Swanger and Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce president Mark Kilmer, who both spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Swanger said in order for the county to move forward with a regional business plan, the proper infrastructure has to be in place. He sympathized with the leaders hesitant about the change, but said it is necessary in order to improve the county and better the job market.

"We all want things to be different, but we don't want change," Swanger said. "It doesn't work that way."

Fulton County Industrial Development Agency Director James Mraz said now that the county approved the plan, the next step is to set up meetings with the municipalities who have the water and wastewater systems, and engage in discussions with them.

"To find out what their level of interest is in participating in the system," Mraz said.

     

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