LAKE GEORGE — Mayor Robert Blais is making a personal appeal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for more funding for the new wastewater treatment plant, saying village taxpayers cannot handle a big tax increase to pay off the bond for the project.
The village is under a consent order from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to replace the 85-year-old plant because it releases an excessive amount of nitrates, which causes algal blooms in the lake and degrades water quality. The new plant must be operational by August 2021.
The price tag for the project is about $22 million and the village has only obtained $7.5 million from grant sources. Blais said he is making a lot of calls to elected officials, including state Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec.
“We need the governor to include this in his discretionary funding in his 2019 budget,” Blais said.
Millions of dollars to upgrade wastewater and water systems are headed to this region through funding for the governor’s Regional Economic Dev…
The governor could make an appropriation in a section of his budget that provides aid for local governments, Blais said.
“He always includes different projects in that,” he said. “That’s our last shot, because we’re due to go to bid in June or July of this year, so there’s no more funding opportunities available to us.”
The village did not receive any money in this latest round of grants. Blais said he did not expect to get funding, because the village in 2017 obtained a $4.27 million state Clean Water grant and $2.5 million from the governor’s Regional Economic Development Council.
Blais said he is facing a dilemma. Borrowing $15 million would bust the tax cap and result in a huge increase for residents.
He said previously that, if the village paid back the loan over 30 years, it would increase taxes on a home assessed at $240,000 by $538 a year, essentially doubling them.
Bonding that amount of money would mean a $427,000 annual debt payment. When added to the village’s existing debt, Blais said, that would balloon annual debt payments to around $1.1 million per year.
“There’s no way after all these years that I would sign contracts to commit the village of Lake George and town of Lake George to a project that would basically bankrupt (the communities) in about five years,” he said.
Blais estimated it would also double taxes for the residents of the town’s Caldwell Sewer District.
He estimated it would mean about $38,000 more in taxes for a business such as the Courtyard Marriott or Fort William Henry. The tax increase would put some merchants out of business.
By the time construction gets underway, the cost may have risen higher than $22 million. The plan calls for building on the same site as the current plant, but Blais said hidden costs inevitably arise.
For example, he said the village just realized it has to cut down several trees to get construction vehicles to the treatment plant.
Blais said unfortunately many state officials and lawmakers still think of the big houses on the lake when they think about Lake George. But most of those houses are not connected to the sewer system.
The village is 2 square miles and has only about a thousand year-round residents, but hosts 30,000 to 50,000 people on an average day in the summer, Blais said. That is why the village has such a large infrastructure.
Blais said he believes he can make the argument the lake is a statewide asset. He pointed out that the governor has included funding to combat algal blooms.
“The state owns the lake and they need to be our partner in supporting this wastewater treatment plant,” he said. “We need to keep the southern end of the lake clean and pristine. This is where a great majority of the people come to enjoy it. All we’re asking for is partnerships.”