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Village awaits state help

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Chatham needs to borrow $2.9M, more than it ever has before

CHATHAM — The village is waiting for notification from the state about approval of a no-interest loan and grants to cover $2.9 million in sewer system repairs and upgrades, and village Mayor Paul Boehme said last week that the obvious need for the work is a factor that may help the community get the financial help it need to upgrade the system.

The Village Board discussed the plan with residents at the monthly water and sewer meeting Thursday night, September 23, explaining that work costing $711,000 has already been done on the system, and the village is already paying for those improvements. Now the board is proposing an additional $2.2 million for more upgrades.

 

Mr. Boehme said the state, which would provide the funding, will consider the need for the work and the limited tax base. “It goes by point basis, and our point basis seems to be high,” he said.

Asked how the board will proceed if state does approve the project and the loan, Mr. Boehme said he didn’t know. “We’ve never borrowed this much money before,” he said, adding that the board would have meetings to discuss the issue with the public. The village may have to conduct a special referendum to be allowed to take on so much debt.

The mayor also said he is trying to “get an outright grant” to bring down the total.

The no-interest loan that Mr. Boehme hopes to secure for the village would be repaid over 40 years and would cover the $711,000 borrowed to line some village sewer pipes, buy a new sewage processing machine and fix a broken trestle that carries the main sewer line. The $2.2 would pay for a lagoon to capture runoff from the sanitary sewer and the replacement of some lines.

The mayor said some of the village water lines were replaced during the major road and drainage work that state concluded last fall. The village paid for the work, but the mayor said that the opportunity to make the water system improvements while the roads were dug up and then replaced for the state project saved taxpayers’ money. “That was a big item,” he said of the new pipes on Spring, Main and Locust streets, Park Row and parts of Route 66.

The new project would deal address sewer violations identified by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Trustee and village Water Commissioner George Grant said that the violations have to do with over-use of the system but that this summer and fall the sewer is generally performing in accordance with DEC regulations. “By anybody’s standards, our plant is running perfectly,” said Mr. Grant.

He said the overflow in the system had a lot to do with large rain storms in the area over the past 10 years. The village is also cracking down on residents who have sump pumps hooked up to the sanitary sewer, which is not permitted, and it is working on storm water runoff issues associated with some buildings in the village, including the Chatham Middle School.

If the village does get the loan it will increase water and sewer bills for village residents. Though the mayor was hesitant to give exact numbers he said that for a homeowner now paying a water bill of $50 may see the rate go up to $65 or $70. “We’ve been keeping it down,” he said of water and sewer bill.

Mr. Boehme stressed that if the work goes forward and the village becomes eligible for the 40-year loan, there will be very little maintenance on the system in the years to come. The village would replace the old pipes with pipes that should last 50 to 100 years. “We are planning ahead,” he said.

Also discussed at the meeting was the plan to create parking just off Main Street. Trustees are currently reviewing plans with the CSX railroad company, which owns the land between the buildings on Main Street and the tracks.

Residents asked about lost handicapped parking space on Main Street. The mayor said that he would talk to the state about marking the handicapped parking and about many missing signs in the village. He admitted that the state has not officially closed the drainage and road work project. The village sent a list of issues that remain unresolved and waiting to hear back. “There are a lot of things that are not complete with the process,” Mr. Boehme said.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com.

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