Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Commerce Park Pipeline: The $3.5 Million Question

Commerce Park, located in Ghent, needs to upgrade its sewage system.  Columbia County rejected building a new treatment plant in favor of a pipeline with four pumping systems that will transport its effluence into the Greenport treatment center.

The Greenport pipeline is estimated to cost  $8.8 million and the home-grown County plant $4.5 million.  A June 23 press release from the Columbia County Board of Supervisors argued that although the home-made system seems much less expensive, when you add in its annual operating costs of $162,000 versus the $45,000 for the Greenport pipeline (which includes fees to this town), it comes out even.

Is that true?  As a Greenportian concerned about the upcoming waste, I used the County's calculations from their June 1 Resolution for comparing the cumulative 30-year cost for the Greenport pipeline to the cost for building a new County treatment plant.  I used the same 3% interest and monthly payments of $449,582, and added in the two different annual operating costs.  

Over that period, the Greenport pipeline would cost about  $14 mill and the County home-grown system about $10.5 mill -- $3.5 million less after 30 years, even with the higher operating costs. After 30 years both systems will probably have to be rebuilt.

So why is the County spending that much more money on the pipeline to Greenport?   The new pipeline will have a capacity of 75,000 gallons per day, although Commerce Park only generates 20,000.  Hmmm. Could they be thinking of dumping even more sewage into Greenport from the proposed Amedore Project? Is the Commerce Park pipeline a Trojan Horse for a monster development that will damage Ghent, Claverack, and Greenport? 

Also what does Greenport get out of that annual $45,000 operating cost?  Nowhere is this mentioned in any of the documents. Are we selling out our ability to develop our own commercial area for some paltry amount of money?

The Greenport Town Board needs to give us an answer.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Will Greenport Become the Outhouse for Columbia County?

The Claverack Town Meeting on June 10 was packed – not only with Claverackians, but also people from Ghent and a number of us from Greenport,  We were there to hear about the proposed monster Amedore development on 9H, just south of the Rt 66 interchange. The lawyer for the developer opened with a long-winded presentation describing the process by which Claverack can mutilate its zoning laws to provide for nearly 600 rental units on one side of 9H and some box stores on the other, mostly cut out from a swath of former mined areas and farm land. (An aside, George Amedore Jr., 46th District Republican Senator, is a Vice President of the company.)

Subsequent questions from Ghent and Claverack residents closely scrutinized the rationale for this development: Retail stores are failing all over the country.  Why would anyone think these stores would succeed in this rural area?  The new residents would be almost half low-income and seniors.  How many tax breaks was the developer getting for reclaiming the mined land, for building units for people with low incomes?  If fully populated, these units could add up to 25% to the Claverack population.  Where would these new residents – many low income or seniors -- come from?  Who would provide the services – emergency, water, and sewage, for these new citizens?

And that's why we Greenportians were there.  To get some answers on the sewage. Just a week or so ago, many of us learned about a new pipeline that will carry waste from Commerce Park in Claverack to Greenport's own sewage treatment plant.  This pipeline is good for both towns.  It solves some environmental problems with the current Park's treatment system, which relies on a disintegrating steel container and puts inadequately treated waste into the aptly named Mud Creek. We also have an arrangement with Stockport to receive flow that does not tax our system.  These arrangements provide some funds that will help pay off the bond that financed our system and contribute to our operating costs. Because the Greenport Water Department has recently succeeded in keeping most of the storm water out of our sewers, our treatment plant has extra capacity.  We now can handle what would come in from Stockport and Commerce Park.  

(An important aside: there's still a stink in the air in the neighborhoods around our treatment plant.  So, even before the Commerce Park pipeline is built, we need to investigate whatever is causing the odor so it won't get worse.)

But, now, what about this Amedore development?  Is the Commerce Park pipeline a Trojan Horse, opening up the possibility for piping into Greenport the development's own smelly effluence? Hmmm.  Maybe.  In a recent Register Star article Amedore was quoted, "I inquired with the county about the sewer line [to Greeenport]. If it is feasible, connecting would be something we would consider.”

Ok, guess again.  We can handle the existing waste plus whatever comes from Commerce Park, but if we become the toilet bowl for every major development in nearby towns, we would eventually reach capacity.  Then what would be left for our own town's development?  And why would Greenport support competing big box stores in Claverack at the expense of Greenport retail?

Greenport is considering a Comprehensive Plan, which, if adopted, would be its first.  As part of it, Fairview Avenue is cited as being an area that could still take on new retailers and multi-unit residences (with incentives to improve the strip's aesthetics). The Amedore monster, built a couple miles from Greenport, could be the death knell to our struggling Fairview Avenue retailers and The Falls, an elegant new residential addition to the northern part of our town. And by taking Amedore's waste, Greenport would be a major participant in its own demise.  

And what's our own town board doing? Are they aware of any of these issues?  Are we just going to be hit with a fait accompli next year, an agreement that allows this disastrous development to pipe its excrement into our town -- a nail in Greenport's commercial coffin?

So, for our own self-interest, Greenportians should join with Claverack and Ghent to oppose a development that will harm us all and that will bring no joy -- only a wasteland -- to our communities.