Cooperation key to effort

Fulton County is looking at a possible plan for a limited regional water and sewer system throughout the county.

The effort may be a good one. The key, at this point, will be for all of the localities in the county to review the idea in a cooperative fashion. The county will need to start meeting with municipalities to determine how a system could be put into place.

The leaders of all our local municipalities are certainly aware there are potential benefits – and drawbacks – to such a system.

While the county hasn’t decided to pursue any official plan for a regional system yet, it will take a closer look at developing one.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on July 8 hired Environmental Design Partnership for $50,000 to design a system that could consolidate all water and sewer services within the county.

On Monday, the county released the report from the firm. While the group concluded Fulton County government can successfully put a limited regional water and sewer system into place, it noted the county has to start meeting with its municipalities.

The extension of water and sewer service – chiefly from the Glove Cities into the town of Johnstown – has been filled with negotiations, threats and delays. Ideally, a county-controlled system would allow for the easy extension of water and sewer services to new developments – at terms the municipalities involved could live with.

But that’s often been the problem. Negotiations have dragged on, delaying – and possibly killing – economic development because local officials were worried they were getting soaked. In the case of the Glove Cities, the potential loss of property tax has been a major push behind talks of annexation and revenue sharing. Of course, officials in the town of Johnstown, rightly, have to hesitate and consider the best course of action for their constituents.

A regional water and sewer system run by the county would not happen quickly. Realistically, it probably would take years of planning and negotiations before work could even begin.

However, as the report noted, “Other counties across the state have demonstrated that, with a long-term commitment, obstacles can be overcome and a ‘win-win’ situation for communities can be achieved.”