SMART Waters gets mixed reaction

JOHNSTOWN – Municipal reactions are mixed about Fulton County’s SMART Waters proposal, with municipalities desiring more details, but some officials appearing to have an open mind.

The proposal involves consolidation of all water and sewer services in the county.

Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board Chairman Lee Mitchell said the cities’ Wastewater Treatment Facility in Johnstown is running well and keeping rates down for its residential and commercial users.

“We’ve got a very good crew out there,” Mitchell said. “We meet our permits. I think we’ve tried to be an efficient operation.”

Mitchell said the two cities’ ratepayers have “fully functional” water and wastewater systems that work well, and “the sentiment is they shouldn’t just lose that.”

County officials feel consolidation may provide a more efficient way to extend water and sewer services and save on money for ratepayers already using such services.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors last July hired Environmental Design Partnership for $50,000 to determine the feasibility of a system that could consolidate all water and sewer services 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.

Fulton County should “commence immediate discussions” with municipalities to provide water services, the report stated.

County officials say they may be setting up future meetings with municipalities.

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.

Mitchell said the cities’ sewage treatment plant does have the capacity to expand service, but stopped short of saying the county should take over the operation.

He said the “general attitude” of the sewer board has been that the sewer plant has been run well and the board will follow whatever direction the cities want to take.

The SMART Waters report found the city of Johnstown has no excess water capacity. The consultant recommended the county encourage that city to increase its capacity by either acquiring capacity from Gloversville, securing additional surface reservoir capacity, or developing new groundwater sources.

Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius admitted he hasn’t read the report in detail yet. But he said the Johnstown Water Department is working on a “problem” to gain more quantities of filtrated water.

“I know they’re doing some work on the filtration to increase the capacity,” he said.

Fulton County also should approach the villages of Broadalbin and Mayfield and town of Northampton regarding “their willingness to provide wastewater capacity to a regional wastewater system,” the SMART Waters report stated.

Reaction to SMART Waters from a couple village officials was mixed.

“I don’t think much of it,” village of Broadalbin Mayor Eugene Christopher said. “I have no doubt that [Broadalbin’s water plant] is probably running better than the county could do.”

According to the report, Broadalbin has 240,000 gallons per day of excess water capacity. The village has three groundwater wells, located on South Second Avenue and North Second Avenue. Broadalbin’s municipal wastewater system is located on South Second Avenue, and the report said it has excess flow capacity of 60,000 wastewater gallons per day.

Village of Mayfield Mayor Jamie Ward, however, said the county’s proposal may have something to offer the county as a whole down the line.

“With the preliminary report, we’re open for discussion,” he said.

Mayfield’s wastewater plant, which the report says has no excess capacity, is located off School Street near the Great Sacandaga Lake. The village water operation is near Green Street and the report says it has excess flow capacity of 70,000 wastewater gallons per day.

Ward says SMART Waters will likely be brought up at his next Mayfield Village Board meeting. He said he’s also talked to Mayfield Town Supervisor Rick Argotsinger – who is this year’s Fulton County Board of Supervisors chairman – and plans to meet with him.

“I’ve read the report; I have a lot of questions, myself,” Ward said.

But the mayor said his village can provide 150,000 gallons per day of water. He said all the municipalities involved in SMART Waters should be looking at the proposal with an eye toward taking some of the burden off Fulton County’s taxpayers and growing the communities, especially around the Great Sacandaga Lake.

“You’ve got to have a progressive mindset in today’s day and age,” Ward stated.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.