County pursues ‘SMART’ plan

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday authorized a second contract with Environmental Design Partnership of Clifton Park to further develop a “SMART Waters” project for the county’s proposed regional water and wastewater system.

The system project is included in the county’s 2014 capital plan.

Supervisors last summer hired Environmental Design Partnership to develop a broad-based, $50,000 report for what the county calls the SMART Waters project. County officials feel more expansion of water and sewer services outside of the Glove Cities will benefit development and lower taxes in the county.

Based on that report, supervisors last month supported creation of a regional water and wastewater system in the county based on the district’s existing water district. The county will now talk to local municipalities about whether they want to sell their excess water and sewer capacity for the county system.

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.

“We’ll continue to push now on the SMART Waters Plan,” county Finance Chairman Greg Fagan told the board Monday at the County Office Building.

The resolution passed by the board authorized a new $45,000 contract with Environmental Design Partnership to prepare a “SMART Growth Infrastructure Plan.” This plan will identify specific areas of the county where water and wastewater services are desired. It will also identify conceptual plans to provide such services to those areas and estimate costs of providing services to “potential water and wastewater districts.”

The new contract also allows a $5,000 “allowance” for Environmental Design Partnership to attend meetings between the county and local municipalities.

Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy, vice chairman of the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board, said the public needs to be aware the county can’t simply take over water and sewer services from municipalities for its own system.

“People don’t understand,” Handy said. “They think the county is trying to buy the wastewater treatment facility. Fulton County wants to buy unused capacities.”

Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young said the county needs to look at many services to help its residents in the future, including transit and broadband services. But he said pursuit of excess water and sewer capacity to help undeveloped areas in the county is equally vital.

“This is an important step to make sure we grow in a responsible way,” Young said.

One of the major recommendations in the first report was the county should “evaluate the potential for developing groundwater wells outside the Tryon facility in southeastern Fulton County.” The county is turning the Tryon property in Perth – a former state youth detention campus – into a business park.

County Planning Director James Mraz said Environmental Design Partnership’s new “growth” report will identify areas in southeast Fulton County where water and wastewater services are desired and needed.

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