Wednesday, December 22, 2004

City backs plan to draw from Hudson, rejects Saratoga Lake idea

Council boosts water proposal
City backs plan to draw from Hudson, rejects Saratoga Lake idea
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Times Union
First published: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A $72.5 million plan to supply parts of Saratoga County with water from the upper Hudson River received a boost Tuesday when the City Council narrowly approved it and rejected a competing plan to draw water from Saratoga Lake.
The council, however, also voted at Mayor Michael Lenz's request to refuse to commit to the 4 million gallons of water usage a day that county leaders have said they need to proceed with the county plan.
The council's three Republicans -- Commissioner of Accounts Stephen Towne, Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas Curley and Lenz -- voted for the county plan, which would treat water and pipe it from Moreau to as far south as Clifton Park. The 3-2 vote took place after more than two hours of discussion and in front of a packed and sometimes hostile crowd in City Hall.
"It's the safest, most affordable, best choice for Saratoga Springs families," Lenz said.
Finance Commissioner Matthew McCabe, an independent, joined Democratic Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue in opposing the county plan. Prior to that, the council's Republicans defeated, by another 3-2 vote, a motion made by McTygue to approve the final environmental impact statement for a $17 million proposal that called for using Saratoga Lake as the city's water source.
McTygue charged that the county plan lacked specifics, was more costly and posed environmental risks due to PCBs in the Hudson River. He said GOP members of the council would pay politically for their vote.
"They are going against the will of the people of this community," McTygue said.
The price for the water under the county water plan is $1.95 per 1,000 gallons. The projected cost for the city drawing water from Saratoga Lake had been $1.35 per 1,000 gallons. But both sides of the debate insisted their proposal would be cheaper for city residents.
Lenz portrayed the county plan as a permanent, long-term water supply that would not cost the city any upfront costs. McTygue asked who will pay for the trunk lines that would bring water to different parts of the county.
Saratoga Lake organizations and three towns surrounding the lake opposed the lake plan, saying it could threaten the lake's recreational value and surrounding property values.
"I think the council did the absolute right thing," city resident David Bronner said after the vote. "It is a quality source of water, a 100-year solution for our community."
Cheryl Keyrouze, co-chairwoman of Saratogians For Responsible Water Sources, opposed the county plan on environmental and planning grounds. She said the PCB issue needed to be addressed.
"It's just a big mistake all over the place," Keyrouze said.
The county and city will next discuss specifics of the arrangement.