After a decade-long effort, Marbletown’s town board has approved connecting SUNY Ulster to the High Falls water district, but not without the expression of some concerns from residents who may also want access to the new pipeline.
The High Falls water connection stems from 2008 plans by the college to build dormitories on the college’s Stone Ridge campus in an attempt to boost enrollment. Despite the prospects of abundant high-quality water, a college spokesperson said there are at present “no plans to build dormitories.”
Under a 40-year contract approved by the towns of Marbletown and Rosendale and the water district, the county will finance, build and maintain a $2.9 million, 2.3-mile pipeline. The Ulster County Legislature, which last year approved engineering studies, is expected to authorize the contract at its June 19 regular monthly meeting.
Residents at a special board meeting at the town hall on Saturday morning expressed concerns that the contract as presented by Marbletown Supervisor Richard Parete and approved unanimously by the town board specified expansion of the water district only to the college. Parete explained that the contract did not exclude future expansion of the water district, though such amendments would have to be negotiated by the parties to the contract. “There is nothing in the contract to hinder [expansion],” said Councilman Eric Stewart.
The High Falls district, which gets its water from the New York City system, is currently operating at only a small fraction of its capacity. At present, the water district serves 202 customers in Marbletown and 40 in Rosendale using about 13 percent of its capacity. The SUNY Ulster connection would double that output. Part of the project requires the installation of water meters.
The college will pay the same rate as other current customers, but expansion of the system will stabilize the rates for all users, Parete said. A college spokesperson said that as part of the agreement the college would pay $5,000 a year for the first 10 years toward water district capital costs.
The college is presently served by three on-site wells. The water, as with most wells in the Stone Ridge area, is fraught with hardness, high sulfur and iron content and limited supply.
Work on the eight-inch pipeline, which will enter the college campus at Route 212 and Berme Road, is expected to begin later this year, Parete said.
No tuition hike
In other SUNY Ulster news, the college presented its 2018-19 budget at a public hearing before the legislature this week which for the first time in several years did not include an increase in tuition. Tuition will remain at $4,480 per year for full-time students. A 3 percent increase in budget to $24.9 million was offset in part by a $210,000 increase in state aid, according to the college. The county’s $6.4-million share (about 26 percent) remains unchanged.
The college is projecting full-time enrollment for the coming fiscal year at 2,099, up slightly over this year but below the 2,132 projected at this time last year. The legislature will act on the SUNY Ulster budget at its June 19 meeting.