by Jason Emerson
Five municipal meetings. Two weeks. Dozens and dozens of work sessions and conferences over many months.
On Thursday night, June 14, the final piece of a grand plan was approved and the municipal governments of Cazenovia and Nelson have all agreed and authorized the formation of a new Route 20 water district from approximately Stone Quarry Road up to Empire Tractor at the top of the hill.
The purpose of the district is to bring municipal water to 51 properties along the three-mile stretch of state road — residential, business (including Trush Office Park) and currently vacant land — to not only improve quality of life but also spur economic development.
The formation of the district does not mean the $2.8 million project will actually happen, however — unless approximately 60 percent of the cost can be covered by grants, the project will not be undertaken. The formation of the water district was necessary, though, in order to allow the Cazenovia and Nelson municipalities to apply for the grants they need to help cover the costs.
“This idea has been around for 20 years. There’s been several attempts at it but it never happened, primarily because of the cost,” said John Dunkle, Cazenovia town engineer and Nelson Planning Board chair, who has been the engineer in charge of the project planning.
The idea of extending the municipal water line up route 20 was revisited recently because New York state is offering grant programs that could fund up to 60 percent of the project cost, Dunkle said. “Cazenovia and Nelson felt this was an opportunity we can’t miss,” he said.
According to the plans, the water line — if the project comes to fruition — would extend three miles up the median of Route 20, with branches to each property in the district, as well as a line down Trush Boulevard. The plans also call for a pump station to be placed near Stone Quarry Road and a 100,000 gallon water storage tank at the highest point of the system. The location for such a tank, which would be in the town of Nelson, has yet to be determined.
The project would also bring fire service up the three-mile portion of Route 20.
The towns and Nelson of Cazenovia will be responsible for the construction of the water line and the village of Cazenovia will sell the water to be used in the new district and operate and maintain the system.
Residents of the water district, who currently use wells for water, would not be required to hook up to the new water line — they can keep their well water if they prefer — but they will be required to help pay for the 30-year loan for the cost of the project, even if they choose not to use the water. Each landowner’s portion of the mortgage, which will be added to their tax bill, would be based on their property’s assessed value.
If the project moves forward, construction would not begin for at least two years, and the tax impact on district residents would not start for at least three, Dunkle said.
The scope and cost of the proposed project is such that the town boards of both Cazenovia and Nelson have held public hearings on the project to receive input from landowners within the proposed new water district.
During the Nelson Town Board’s public hearing on June 8, Supervisor Roger Bradstreet said every elected official at the county, state and national levels that represent the towns of Cazenovia and Nelson have declared their support and their intention to help secure grant funding for the project.
During the two public hearing in Cazenovia on June 12 and Nelson on June 8, reactions to the proposed project were mixed from businesses in Trush Office Park. Representatives from GHD, Marquardt Switches and Pelco all voiced support for the project, while a representative from Knowles Capacitors opposed it as being unneeded for their business.
Bob Lucas, owner of Empire Tractor, said he opposed the project as an added expense. “We don’t need the expense; we don’t need the water,” he said.
The Madison County Health Department and Madison County IDEA have declared support for the project.
During its monthly meeting on June 5, the Cazenovia Village Board approved an inter-municipal agreement with the towns of Cazenovia and Nelson to supply the water to the new water district.
During the Cazenovia Town Board meeting on June 12, the board unanimously approved four actions to create the water district: They declared the project would have no negative impact to the environment, they officially formed the water district, they authorized the supervisor to bond for the money needed to fund the project, and they approved the inter-municipal agreement with the village of Cazenovia and the town of Nelson.
During a special meeting on June 14 the Nelson Town Board approved the same four resolutions, with the inter-municipal agreement being between itself and the village and town of Cazenovia.
“This is a big win for Cazenovia and Nelson, as well as Madison County. Over 1,500 people: 12 businesses, 17 residents and vacant (development potential) properties are affected,” said Nelson Supervisor Roger Bradstreet. “Many dedicated hours of meetings, planning, engineering by the three municipalities and district members have made this possible.”
“We’re all in this together,” said Cazenovia Supervisor Bill Zupan. “I think this is positive for all three municipalities; it helps everyone.”
With the water district created, the municipalities can now apply for the grants to help fund the project. Even if the grants do not come through, and the water system is not installed, the formation of the water district will make it easier in the future to apply for more grants to try to create the water system once again, Dunkle said.
Descriptions of the proposed water system plan, copies of the environmental review reports and all materials related to the formation of the water district and the proposed water system project can be viewed at the town offices of both Cazenovia and Nelson.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.