ALBANY — Twin County mayors are calling on the state to provide more funding for much-needed infrastructure projects including increasing reimbursements through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program.
The New York State Conference of Mayors, an association that represents villages and cities throughout the state, held a conference Monday in Albany to discuss the association’s state budget priorities for 2019, issues the association will push for during the 2019 state Legislative session that starts in January.
Hudson Mayor Rick Rector attended Monday’s conference and said village and town officials at the meeting face similar challenges and one of the biggest is the need for infrastructure funding.
“Every village and town is different and have different issues but they have similar issues to the ones Hudson faces,” Rector said. “Of great interest to me was that there is a large need for infrastructure funding, including for clean-water infrastructure.”
Several communities were awarded funding this month to help with water infrastructure projects including the village of Coxsackie, which is slated to receive $3 million to install a new water storage tank estimated to cost $5 million.
“There are billions of dollars that could be spent on water infrastructure,” said Coxsackie Mayor Mark Evans, stressing the need for funding. “We could always use more money for infrastructure projects.”
The cost of these projects including road work continue to increase, Evans said, but reimbursement levels through the state’s CHIP program, which reimburses municipalities for road projects each year, have not increased in many years.
“I think some attention has been paid to this issue by state officials,” Evans said. “Our costs have definitely increased but our reimbursements have not increased.”
Valatie Mayor Diane Argyle recalled that the state Department of Environmental Conservation used to help municipalities repair infrastructure the state department cited, but no longer does, and said the state needs to make up for that with funding.
“We need stronger support from the state,” Argyle said. “Our highways are in terrible shape and they should not be that way. The state does not spend enough time listening to the people on the ground. We get forgotten.”
Argyle has pushed the state for a long time for the state to put a traffic light at the intersection of Route 9 and Main Street, but to no avail.
The village of Kinderhook is looking down the barrel of two expensive infrastructure projects on Albany Avenue and Williams Street, Mayor James Dunham said. Based on old estimates, Dunham said repairs to Albany Avenue could cost about $1.8 million with about $500,000 of that for the replacement of water mains along the road, and the Williams Street rehabilitation could possibly cost about $850,000 with $350,000 spent on replacing water mains.
“I definitely agree infrastructure funding is needed,” Dunham said. “I support increasing funding for programs like CHIP that is very helpful.”
The village of Catskill is in desperate need of a new water tower, which could cost about $1.2 million, said Village President Vincent Seeley, who agreed the state should utilize its tax revenue to better serve communities such as the one he represents.
Seeley stressed the need to reduce what he called unfunded mandates that come down from the state. Unfunded mandates are services the state requires municipalities to provide, but do not provide the funding.
“Those are what really hurt us,” Seeley said. “We have about 1,500 taxpayers, so every $35,000 we are required to spend without funding can increase taxes 1 percent. So if the state comes to us and mandates something that costs $50,000 that will be a 1 percent tax increase immediately. We are on that thin line where we either have to cut services or raise taxes.”