Valatie readies for credit if money flows

VALATIE – The Village Board signed paperwork this week to move the village closer to a $2.3-million project to upgrade its aging sewer system.

Mary Beth Bianconi, a senior project manager from Delaware Engineering P.C., an Albany firm that deals with water and sewer plant issues, attended the board’s meeting Tuesday, December 14, with contracts for the board to sign to conduct a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the project, to spend $18,500 to work with a bond counselor and to approve the contract with Delaware Engineering.

But she described the documents as “a sheet of paper,” telling the board, “It does not obligate you to borrow a dime.”

Ms. Bianconi said that the village has to have all its paperwork ready so that if and when federal or state funds become available the village will be ready to apply for the money. “Projects that haven’t completed that [paperwork] didn’t get funded,” she said of the contracts. She said Valatie is getting the ball rolling by preparing the forms, but she reiterated that signing the papers to prepare for the project doesn’t mean the village must use the money.

The village sewer system currently complies with the rules of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but there are issues with waste processing at the sewer plant. Ms. Bianconi talked in particular about the age of the plant. “We’ve learned a lot in the last 35 to 40 years about wastewater,” she said. The village plant “needs to be updated to work better,” she said.

The most immediate problem is the removal of solids at the very beginning of the sewage treatment process. The planet currently has a rack that stops the solids from moving through the system, but Ms. Bianconi said the rack is 25 feet down inside the plant, making it hard to clean off, and it gets full very quickly, slowing down the system and causing the water to become harder to treat. Though the system is licensed to handle 180,000 gallons of wastewater, Ms. Bianconi said it’s having difficulty managing that much with the rack system.

The village plans to spend $200,000 to insert something called a channel grinder in the system, which would grind up the solids. The rack would stay in place as a back-up. Ms. Bianconi said that the grinder itself and the engineering needed to put it in would only be about $70,000, so the rest of the funds would go toward lining some sewer pipes that she said are crumbling. Village officials hope to start that project in the spring of 2011.

As for the rest of the project, the village and Delaware Engineering are looking for grants, interest-free or low-interest loans. Ms. Bianconi said that besides getting the paperwork in order, the village needs to get returns from an income survey RCAP Solutions is conducting for Valatie. The survey results will help with a hardship determination, which may qualify the village for more funds.

The surveys went out in November, and Mayor Gary Strevell said that RCAP will conduct door to door interviews in early 2011.

Ms. Bianconi stressed the importance of the survey, and she and the mayor stressed that the answers are completely private and that the survey was being done at no cost to village taxpayers.

“It’s a big number,” said Mr. Strevell of the sewer upgrade project cost. He said he made sure that signing the contract at the meeting did not obligate the village to borrow $2.3 million.

But the village will borrow the $200,000 for the grinder to do the temporary fix to sewer plant. He said the village would have to find outside funding before taking on the whole $2.3-million upgrade project.

The board also passed Village Law #3 restricting use of ATVs and other recreational vehicles. The law sets the distance someone can use those vehicles to private and village property and sets fines for violators.

Also at this week’s meeting, the board heard from representatives of the Valatie Community Theatre on Main Street, which now has a new wing for bathrooms. Those facilities should be completed in four weeks.

The community theater representatives were also there to discuss plans for the new entrance to the theater. The group is considering moving the entrance to the right side of the building, where there is a garden now, to build a ramp. That would mean closing off the front entrance. The board plans to review the designs and get back to the theater group.

The mayor announced special holiday hours for the Village Hall. The office will close at noon December 23 and reopen Tuesday, December 27. The town offices will also close at noon December 30 and open again on January 4, 2011.

The next village meeting will be Tuesday, January 11 at 7:30 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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