RAVENA – With a major repaving project slated for the middle of next year, it seemed like an ideal time to take care of another to-do list item – replacing aging water pipes.
The village is working with town and state officials to find funding to take care of the project, which would replace century-old water pipes at the same time the road is being torn up for the repaving project.
“The water lines are 100 years old,” Village Trustee Bill Bailey said in a meeting Monday morning. “Most of it was put in in the late 1890s.”
The aging infrastructure has presented its share of problems.
“We are digging up the road three or four times a year to repair these pipes because they are old and because they are at the bottom of a hill, so there is extra pressure building there,” Bailey said.
Another challenge is that the water pipes are underground in the middle of busy roads on Routes 143 and 144 – roads that sustain daily truck traffic. Each time repairs have to be made, traffic has to be rerouted. Should the water pipe replacement project move forward, those pipes would likely be rerouted to beneath the sidewalks, which are also being replaced.
Monday’s meeting, held initially at the village offices before moving to Route 144 where work would be completed, was attended by Bailey, Trustee Nancy Warner, Town Supervisor Philip Crandall, Village Foreman Henry Traver, and Assemblyman Peter Lopez, who is helping the village obtain funding for the project.
Replacing the water pipes would come with a price tag of roughly $320,000, according to Bailey. The village is hoping to obtain a grant to help with the costs. Lopez recommended two potential funding sources – the USDA, which is the United States Department of Agriculture, and the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, or EFC.
Both agencies can provide funding for infrastructure projects in local municipalities.
Another potential funding source could come from state Sen. George Amedore’s office; village officials will pursue that potential route as well.
But getting the money isn’t the only hurdle officials are facing. The state’s Department of Transportation, which is handling the repaving project, is also requiring the village to have the money in hand in November 2017, months before work would actually begin.
“I could understand the DOT would want a commitment for the project because they have to do all the engineering, but I don’t understand why they want us to have the money in hand at that time,” Bailey said.
Putting funding in place so quickly would make the task that much more challenging, according to Lopez.
“Getting grant funds in such a short period of time like this is difficult, and funds are usually available after a portion of the project has already been completed,” Lopez responded.
The water supply system serves approximately 2,000 users in the village and town combined, with roughly 1,600 in Ravena and another 400 in Coeymans. Rates are relatively low for the region – the cost is $225 a year per unit in the village, and $337.50 each year per unit in the town.
Replacing the water pipes at the same time as the repaving project is good common sense, officials said.
“It would be better to replace the water lines while we are repaving the roads,” Crandall pointed out.
“If we wait five years down the road to do this, then we would have to pay to dig up the road, so it makes sense to do it now,” Bailey added.
In addition to seeking grant money – which would not have to be paid back – officials will explore other financing options as well, such as low- or even no-interest loans that might be available.
“One option to explore is long-term bonding through the USDA,” Lopez explained. “If the project was bonded, it could be over 15, 20, 30 years. It would be instructive to know how much that would impact water rates, and would put it in perspective, if you end up having to go with a loan.”
Another option that could be done quickly would be obtaining a regular bank loan over a long period of time, such as 30 years, at an interest rate of around 2%.
“Our goal is to reduce costs and provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost,” Lopez said. “We don’t want to burden taxpayers, but we want to make sure we can provide the services they need at the lowest possible cost.”
Bailey said he would calculate the numbers to determine roughly how much a loan to the village would impact local rates.
Officials will also appeal to the Department of Transportation to ask that a commitment letter be sufficient to get the ball rolling, rather than the village being required to have $320,000 in hand this November – a goal that would not appear to be feasible.