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 Oneonta Town, City Should Join In Regional Water Authority

The Oneonta Town Board is energetically seeking to make a historic mistake that will have increasingly negative impacts on Greater Oneonta for decades to come.

Southside neighbors are being asked to approve a water district that would allow construction of a
water plant in Emmons’ Fortin Park. Let’s hope, for their good and that of the whole, that they say no.

Right now, downtown Oneonta, step by step, is coming back. The strip – Southside – is relatively compact and convenient to the population center. This is good. We need to continue that incremental growth as population grows.

That’s Smart Growth.

The proposed water plant in Emmons would create pods of homes and businesses in outlying areas, eating up open space and increasing dependence on the automobile. The result would be what you see in almost every Upstate city – a rotting downtown and a congested strip many miles long.

That’s Dumb Growth.

Greater Oneonta has avoided that, because, right now, the city operates the one water system, and growth has happened from the center out.

One of the little publicized aspects of the town plant is that, to work financially, it will have to sell water to the Town of Davenport, Delaware County.

This will allow the Southside strip to hopscotch over available land along Route 23 between the Holiday Inn and the county line. It will allow Davenport to develop its own strip, cutting off Delaware County customers who now shop on Southside and continue to Center City for a sandwich or dinner.

Over time, the value of Southside will decline, sapping the Town of Oneonta’s tax base – and Otsego County’s; it affects all of us. And it will further challenge Center City, which – for the good of all – needs to continue developing as a funky college town, an aggregation of dining, shops and entertainment.

How the factions have lined up is odd, indeed.

Sustainable Otsego, in the run up to last year’s county board election, supported the water plant, calling it – jaws dropped – Smart Growth! The only conclusion is that the decision was a cynical one, made to give some cover to anti-fracking candidates SO was backing for county board – i.e., we aren’t against ALL economic development.

It’s also surprising that very bright freshman Town Board member Andrew Stammel is foresquare behind the water plant. It’s ironical: He opposes fracking, when there’s no gas to frack (per Allstadt, Northrup, Brock and Acton), while supporting a project that will assuredly increase dependency on fossil fuels.

Stammel has pointed out the potential health hazards of tainted wells, but the Emmons water plant is a rifle-shot approach to a broad challenge that needs a broad solution.

Mike Zagata, the former DEC commissioner, Roger France, retired state Health Department engineer, and Dave Rowley, former interim city schools superintendent, studied the matter and issued a short white paper over the summer. It concludes that, shortterm, the Fortin Park plant might save a few bucks. But what would better serve Greater Oneonta’s needs logically and systematically is a unified two-municipality water district.

This would allow the city and town, as an entity, to look at where municipal water would best serve balanced growth in the community – yes, bring municipal water to Southside, to West Oneonta’s homes and subdivisions, to areas identified as prime for industrial, commercial and home development. But build from the center out.

Logical development will increase the tax base incrementally as it provides services. The crazy quilt approach represented by the Town of Oneonta plan will damage the community as a whole and set the stage for community degradation.

Please, Town Supervisor Bob Wood, Town Board members Stammel, David Jones, Patricia Jacob and Trish Riddell Kent, desist! Reject Dumb Growth. Embrace Smart Growth, for the good of the whole community and generations to come.
Think about it: Andrew Stammel would be superb advocate of this better way.


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