Gone are Springtown, Plutarch, Bonticou, Libertyville, Jenkinstown and Butterville, but any reports of Ohioville’s death are premature. Town officials have set their sights on securing downtown revitalization money to shore up this community gateway.
New Paltz’s historic hamlets, which predated the Village, each typically included a schoolhouse, church, mill and blacksmith. Most have been relegated to street names, but Ohioville retains its small hamlet character with a small business district. While some of the other hamlets were impacted by the creation of a Village in their midst, the biggest blow to Ohioville was dealt by the Thruway Authority by cutting it off from New Paltz proper.
Since Andrew Cuomo was governor, most state funding to local governments has been awarded through competition. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is the municipal equivalent of a lottery: local leaders salivate over the possibility of getting $10 million, but those prizes are exceedingly rare and applying to get one takes considerable time and money. Tim Rogers, the Village mayor, has argued that there is value in applying regardless, because it forces focused, creative thinking that can be used to inform other projects in the statistically likely event that a $10 million check is not forthcoming.
What Ohioville residents need most to thrive is the closure of their tiny sewer district, Supervisor Neil Bettez believes. Sewer district money is kept separate from the general tax fund, based on the legal theory that only the residents of that district are receiving those benefits, and therefore those residents must be entirely responsible for those costs. The flaw in that thinking is exposed when the taxpayers in a district are few and the costs are high, such as in sewer district 6. Without money to keep the old treatment plant running well, the proposal calls for shutting it down and connecting those mains to the Village’s system instead.
Should this money be secured, it might be used not only to pay for the decommissioning and the connection, but also to rehabilitate that site into a park, and potentially build more sidewalks as well. A pump station would remain to push the poop across the Thruway, therefore that land would have to remain public property. Funds would also go toward addressing the inflow and infiltration problems that are believed to be present in this small sewer district. Pipes from decades past were made of iron or even clay, and as they degrade, they develop cracks and holes which allow groundwater into the system, which can overwhelm the treatment facility. In the village, neglected maintenance got bad enough that raw sewage was erupting into the streets 20 years ago, and improvements are made under a consent order. Problems with the sewer six mains would have to be addressed to prevent adding to those problems. “It’s a lot more expensive than putting in a pipe,” said Bettez.
A project with sewage at its center may not seem glamorous enough to win a high-profile award of $10 million, but the supervisor sees this as the culmination of hamlet revitalization that was begun with rezoning of the area several years ago. That builds on access to public transportation, including a park-and-ride to access buses across the Hudson.
That these awards are difficult to secure is lost on no one, but this proposal is being supported enthusiastically, even by the longest-serving council member, Dan Torres. “I’m excited about this one,” Torres said. If this idea excites the panelists deciding on how to dole out this state money, everyone in New Paltz could be very excited.