Next round of sewer fixes set
Among many programs delayed by the pandemic was the entire process for securing state funding for local projects. The Hunger Games-style competition was halted outright in the face of economic uncertainty last year, and for Village of New Paltz officials that may have been stressful because they depend upon those awards to continue the work of replacing failing sewer mains. However, the consolidated funding process was resumed, and village residents will again see work on and under local streets to replace the leaky pipes that contribute to issues like poop in the Wallkill River. Even as preparations are made for work this year, an application is being submitted to address a different set of century-old sewer mains in the future.
This spring, $808,875 was awarded to replace sewer mains on Lincoln Place, Orchard Lane, South Chestnut Street and Overlook, Elting and Innis avenues. In some cases, that work can be done by inserting a plastic liner inside an old iron pipe from one end, but sometimes it’s necessary to tear up the whole street. Village officials are already advertising to hire an engineer to determine all of those details. In the new application, $948,000 is being sought to fix the mains under Tricor Avenue, Henry W. Dubois and Colonial drives, Huguenot Street and Orchard Lane. That application is due in July, and awards will be announced in December.
“Metering is the key to conservation,” New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers said at the June 23 meeting of village trustees. The mayor was speaking about another step that might be taken to help reduce the strain on the pipes serving village residents: installing meters to measure the amount of sewage coming off of the college campus. Using money from a deal with New York City officials, nine master water meters were installed at the college to replace the ones mounted on the many buildings there, and that’s led to campus officials putting effort into locating and repairing leaks in water mains, presumably because now it’s being accounted for in that mammoth water bill.
Sewer meters are a novel idea in the village. Sewer bills are calculated based on the amount of water, based on an assumption that there’s a somewhat stable ratio between the gallons of water taken in and the gallons of sewage sent back out. As proposed by the mayor, nine master meters located in maintenance holes at the edge of campus will measure the volume of sewage directly. This is important because the village’s sewer system has such bad problems with infiltration and inflow through leaky pipes that there’s been a consent order in place for nearly 20 years requiring regular improvements. When clean water seeps into sewer lines, it gets treated just as the feces-filled stuff does, straining the capacity at the treatment plant and resulting in some serious pollution problems. As the sewer mains under direct village control are gradually eliminated from the problems list, attention is turning to infrastructure that feeds into that system but isn’t maintained by village workers, such as on the college campus and in the remainder of the town. The mayor’s plan to install master sewer meters could result in campus officials becoming keenly interested in repair SUNY sewer pipes, just to keep the cost down.
County request formalized
With $34 million in federal aid going Ulster County, Village of New Paltz officials are looking for a portion to bolster the infrastructure that will be needed to support additional affordable housing to address the county housing crisis. Money is being sought to improve sewer pumps, and to connect the dead-end water lines on Huguenot and Chestnut streets to form a loop, because loops increase pressure and reduce instances of sluggish, brown water.
Time for crosswalks?
State transportation officials have rejected some past requests for walks across on Main Street in New Paltz — a state road — despite a state law about “complete streets” which indicates that users who aren’t in motorized carriages have just as much right to safely use roads as anyone else. They are again being asked for permission to paint crosswalks at Prospect and Church streets, reasoning that it supports the governor’s pet project of the Empire State Trail. Time will tell if this tactic is more successful, or if this is an issue which will only be resolved by a change of state leadership or the decision of a judge.
Village hall open again
Village of new Paltz offices are now open again, and meetings will be held in person, because the State’s state of emergency for the pandemic has been lifted. Those who are not vaccinated are encouraged to wear masks, but no one will be asked for proof of that status. Options to allow members of the public to participate remotely in meetings are being explored.
Treasurer appointed clerk
Not since Jean Gallucci served as the clerk-treasurer of the Village of New Paltz has anyone handled the financial and administrative sides of village hall at the same time, but village treasurer Nancy Branco was provisionally named clerk at the end of the June 23 meeting of the Village Board. The organization of the two departments will be largely the same, as Branco’s long memory and deep knowledge about village government has been relied on by staff members for many years. Branco had worked for Gallucci and took on the job of treasurer when that role was split off into a separate position in the early aughts. According to Mayor Tim Rogers, the existing deputy clerks will continue to work with the public and address the day-to-day tasks in that office.
In May, voters agreed to place local elections under control of the partisan county Board of Elections, a move that was framed as a cost-cutting measure that could in theory result in a larger turnout of voters — but only by sacrificing the non-partisan character of village elections, which were overseen by the village clerk.