Fresh faces give Kingston an opportunity to rethink how it does infrastructure

The intersection soon to be replaced by a roundabout. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Mayor Steve Noble said this week that he hopes the city’s new engineer and public works superintendent will forge a close working relationship as they tackle a series of looming infrastructure projects. Over the next few years, the officials will guide Kingston through a major sewer replacement effort, a plan to bring the city’s sewage treatment plant into compliance with new state guidelines and a two-year construction project to create a roundabout at a vital intersection.

The city recently announced new hires for the top spots in the city’s engineering and public works office. John Schultheis will take over for longtime City Engineer Ralph Swenson. Edward Norman will replace current DPW Superintendent Joseph Chenier. Both men start work on Sept. 4. Noble said he hoped the pair would forge a close working relationship while bringing new eyes to the city’s ongoing and future infrastructure projects.

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“One of the things we’re really striving for is to have the city engineer and the DPW superintendent working together on their projects from day one,” said Noble. “I always found it odd that engineering was separate from DPW, working out of separate buildings. One of the things I want to emphasize with staff is that we want that to change.”

The new appointments come as the city is in the middle of or preparing to embark on several ambitious projects to replace or upgrade aging infrastructure. One of the largest projects involves upgrades to the city’s sewage treatment plant. The facility built on the Rondout Creek was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Since then, the city has implemented a plan to prevent a recurrence by upgrading pumps and moving generators and other equipment to higher ground. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is expected to pay 90 percent of the project’s $3.5 million price tag. Another $7.9 million will go towards bringing the plant into compliance with new state regulations for ammonia levels in effluent discharged into the Rondout Creek. A third project will replace the roof, generators and blowers at the plant. 

Along with the improvements to the sewage treatment plant the new hires will oversee ongoing efforts to replace the city’s aging sewer pipes. Work just wrapped up on replacement of the Grand Street sewer system. Next, the city will take on the Jacobs Valley network centered around the Broadway overpass. The $2 million project, which is expected to alleviate chronic flooding beneath the overpass, is expected to wrap up this winter or next spring.

Other challenges ahead for the engineering office include plans to fix or replace the city’s aging central fire station, relining of the Washington Avenue sewer line and an ongoing effort to create more bike- and pedestrian-friendly “complete streets.” The two departments will also have to work together on a plan to mitigate disruption during a planned two year build-out of a roundabout at the intersection of I-587, Albany Avenue and Broadway. Noble said the DPW and engineering departments would also be charged with prioritizing and seeking funding for a laundry list of municipal infrastructure projects identified by the Common Council a few years ago.

“We want to find a more methodical way of identifying the next project, the next sewer we want to replace and finding out what our funding options are,” said Noble.


Roundabout contracts heading out to bid

A state-funded project to replace a notoriously tangled intersection with a roundabout is ready to go out to bid. Meanwhile, the cost estimate for a concurrent city-funded project to replace aging sewer and water infrastructure at the site, has climbed sharply over previous estimates.

The long-planned project will replace the complex intersection where I-587, Albany Avenue, Clinton Avenue and Broadway come together with a roundabout. Traffic experts say the new traffic control system will ease congestion and improve safety at the site. The state Department of Transportation will fund and carry out the project. According to DOT spokeswoman Gina DiSarro, bids on the project are expected to go out early next month. Once a contractor is chosen, surveying and other preliminary work could begin as early as this fall. Construction is expected to start next spring and the project is slated to be complete by November 2020. State and local officials are working on plans to keep the intersection open to traffic throughout the construction phase.

In conjunction with the roundabout’s construction, the city will undertake its own project to replace sewer and water infrastructure beneath the site. City officials say the pipes are old and in need of replacement and doing it while the street is already dug up will save money and hassle in the long run. But those costs have nearly doubled since the project was first proposed. According to DiSarro, the infrastructure replacement, which will be paid for by the city, was originally estimated to cost $7 million. The latest cost estimates have increased the price to $12 million. DiSarro said the cost increase was based on added materials and an expanded scope of the project.

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