Ad Hoc Committee Review of Town of Oneonta Water Projects and Services
An ad hoc committee was formed to review the proposed Town of Oneonta South Side Water Project, and the overall issue of public water service in the Town. The primary focus was to review the decision by the Town to develop its own water sources and treatment plant for the South Side Water Project, rather than purchase water from the City of Oneonta, with an eye to the overall long term needs of the greater Oneonta community. To that end, the related reports and documents by Lamont Engineers were reviewed, administrative options for a unified greater Oneonta water service arrangement were investigated with the help of Hartwick College student interns, and local officials interviewed. Following are the findings and recommendations resulting from the review.
- Although the initial engineering report did not reflect it, the Town and its consultant have in fact conducted a thorough comparison between supplying the South Side with water from new wells developed and operated by the Town, and supplying the area with water purchased from the City. The City offered a fair and reasonable rate for sale of water to South Side properties, based on its own costs to produce and deliver the water. However, the projected costs of Town-produced water are still significantly lower than the costs of purchasing City water. The decision to construct Town wells and a treatment plant rather than purchase City water were based on these financial considerations.
- Apparently there was a common misconception that purchasing water from the City would eliminate the need to construct a water storage tank for the South Side. This is incorrect. Regardless of the water source used, a storage tank is needed to modulate water pressures, to provide the high water flows needed for fighting fires, and to provide water to the system in the event of a power failure, water transmission break, or similar event disrupting the normal delivery of water.
- Future economic develop in the greater Oneonta area could stress available water supply resources, potentially resulting in counter-productive competition between the Town and City. Management and operation of all community water service in the greater Oneonta area by a single entity would provide many advantages due to the economy of scale and elimination of artificial geographic and political boundaries. Water service could be provided in the most efficient and cost effective manner, and the best available water sources could be utilized and protected. Alternatives exist within New York State regulations for such communal arrangements and state initiatives provide financial incentives, although creation of such an arrangement for the Oneonta area would likely face significant political and public hurdles. All local government officials should consider unified management of water systems a long term goal.
- Absent such a unified management arrangement, physical connection between the City’s water system and the Town’s proposed and existing water systems would still provide the significant benefit of improved reliability of service to all areas. Final design of the South Side Water Project should consider as much as feasible potential compatibility with the City system (e.g. matching the elevation of the Town’s water tank with that of one of the City’s tanks.)
- No mention has been made of possibly supplying the Town’s existing Woodland Water District from the proposed South Side project. The feasibility of providing at least an emergency interconnection between the existing district and the nearby proposed wells in Fortin Park should be considered.