Village of New Paltz officials have decided to put money normally paid to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) into an escrow account, and have advised city officials that this is because of potential costs to the water district as a consequence of DEP projects. The goal is to build up half-a-million dollars to be used to cover additional expenses resulting from ongoing work to allow for the local water system to temporarily be disconnected from the Catskill Aqueduct. A draft letter to city officials laying out this intention was approved on August 9.
In the letter to the DEP’s deputy commissioner was a recent example of an actual cost: a request to install temporary flashing at a village reservoir cost $33,059.16. While it may not seem like a large amount of money in the context of a massive municipal budget, the mayor noted that it would nearly cover the cost of an employee health plan. A potential cost that Mayor Tim Rogers has raised repeatedly is what might happen when the systems for town water district 5 on Plains Road are turned on full throttle to replace aqueduct water during shutdown periods. That large flow would come from the south, and could expose problems never before revealed by the steady easterly flow of water through infrastructure that’s in places a century old. The mayor was told that this “is a local problem,” and if anything does happen, costs would not be reimbursed. Rogers was also assured that everything in the new water district is going to be to operated at “industry-standard pressures,” but observed, “We don’t have an industry-standard conveyance system, because it’s decades old.”
One of the symptoms of problems in the village system is brown water, which occurs when tuberculation — mineral buildup in legacy, unlined iron pipes — is shaken loose through water pressure, nearby construction or water main repairs. While harmless, it’s unpleasant to see and results in a lot of calls to the water department. Village employees investigate these reports to confirm that the problem isn’t coming from a private water heater, and may also flush nearby hydrants to resolve the issue. That’s labor that water users pay for, and if turning on district 5 causes only brown water, it will increase that cost. If brown water is a symptom of an unexpected shock like a water hammer — which can occur when a high-pressure valve is shut — it could damage the old pipes in new ways, up to and including breaking water mains.
Turning on district 5 might cause no problems at all; Rogers has been advocating for a cautious approach, and is not trying to stop the project. As of now, the mayor is asking for more anecdotes about brown water, to better understand where it’s being seen currently.
These are costs that take place in the context of a complex financial relationship. City officials are looking for particular changes and improvements because much of the water village users consume comes from an aqueduct that was built to extract local water for downstate urban users. Promised reimbursement for work is sometimes delayed, as it has been for drilling wells to expand local water sources. At times, per the letter, state legislators have had to intervene “to secure DEP financial participation” in some of this work. Rogers acknowledged that city officials would perhaps characterize this investment as a pure benefit: “‘We’re doing this for you, so that you have a backup system.’ . . . this is primarily a project for the city of New York,” to allow for maintenance and repair of city systems. Rogers also pushed back against the idea that this is a partnership, saying, “They sell us water at a premium rate,” the cost of which is raised an average of seven percent a year.
Money that has been used to pay for that raw water is now being set aside in an escrow account, to be used to pay for work that is seen as being as for the benefits of New York City users, such as the flashing on the reservoir, or consultants to develop plans to comply with DEP requests. Trustees Michele Zipp and Alexandria Wojcik, the others present at this meeting, approved of sending this letter to Paul Rush, the deputy commissioner overseeing water supply.
Wanted: planning board member
After serving for numerous years on both the New Paltz Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals, John Litton has stepped down as both a member and chair of the planning board. Longtime member Zach Bialecki will be replacing Litton in that administrative role, but that leaves a volunteer position to fill on this important municipal board. Planning board members review much of the new and updated construction that occurs in the village, as well as subdivision proposals, and they have considerable latitude for requiring changes to plans before anyone picks up a hammer at all.
In short, it’s at this board table that the look and feel of neighborhoods is decided. These are the people who apply the zoning code, and they’re among the first to recognize if zoning changes are working as intended or not.
Even if one of the alternate members agrees to take a permanent position, trustees will be looking for someone to become an alternate, which can be seen as a way to ease into the sometimes-complex world of reviewing these applications. Anyone interested in learning more about this form of public service can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please pay for what you plan
Developers looking to build a hotel on Water Street in new Paltz would like to create access to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, prompting planning board members to ask for guidance connecting to this village-owned land. What they will be told is that the arrangement at Zero Place is working well. In that scheme, the property owner agreed to maintain the connection area, including public property.
Building pro sought
There are staff openings in the Village of New Paltz building department, but like their colleagues in town government, village officials are finding that they need to search broadly to find the right person. Mayor Tim Rogers said at the village board meeting of August 9 that depending on the candidate, the job could be that of a code enforcement officer, a building inspector or a director of planning. Anyone with “zoning cred” is invited to apply.