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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 10, 2005


Spend political capital on cleanup

The votes are in and the Democrats have a clear mandate in Guilderland. How will they spend their political capital"

The town has roughly the same number of Democrats as Republicans but, after nearly two centuries of dominance, the Guilderland GOP is in tatters. The party placed an ad in The Enterprise looking for candidates but couldn’t muster a full slate. We hope the GOP uses the next two years to thoughtfully rebuild because a town with a viable two-party system provides needed balance.

In the meantime, though, it’s clear Guilderland voters like what the current administration has accomplished — and with good reason. Supervisor Kenneth Runion has put an emphasis on planning in the burgeoning suburban town. Under his leadership, the town has completed a comprehensive land-use plan that, when fully instituted, could preserve much of what is valued in Guilderland while encouraging sensible growth.

Runion worked with large landowners to hammer out details in a plan to re-zone much of rural western Guilderland. Those in the disgruntled group turned into supporters of the plan.

Clean water is key to any municipality’s well being and last week town officials proudly showed off Guilderland’s new $1.7 million water-filtration system.

In operation for a month, the system has already made the town’s water cleaner. Guilderland now has to use only half of the amount of chlorine it previously used to clean the water, said Thadeus Ausfeld, the town’s water-treatment plant operator.

We remember some tense time three years ago — and since — when we broke the news on pollution problems with Guilderland water. Water in some areas of Guilderland had levels of disinfectant byproducts far over federal guidelines because they were at the end of unlooped water lines where chemicals became more concentrated.

The new filtration system not only mitigates that problem but also gives the town a buffer if there is ever a spill along the Watervliet Reservoir, its major source of water.

We hope, in the upcoming term, the town board works further to ensure a safe water source for Guilderland. The city of Watervliet, which owns the reservoir located near the center of Guilderland, plans to raise the level of the reservoir, which has some environmentalists worried about erosion and pollution.

Guilderland must be very cautious in reviewing Watervliet’s plans, Runion told us in a pre-election interview. "We want to make sure there’s not any impacts," Runion said. "We want to see if dredging is not a better alternative."

Environmentalists — including Ausfeld, who co-chairs the Army Corps of Engineers Restoration Advisory Board, charged with overseeing the cleanup of the old Army depot in Guilderland Center — have long advocated dredging. The Black Creek runs through the old depot site — it was split in two by the Army to carry waste away from the site — and then feeds the reservoir.

Members of the Restoration Advisory Board have expressed frustration that the town has not sent representatives to its meetings or been more involved in the cleanup process.

Nine areas of concern, areas deemed a threat to human health, have been identified at the old depot site. Public pressure has helped secure federal funds recently from a limited pool to clean up one area of concern.

If the town is more actively involved, more funds for further cleanup may be forthcoming. So we were heartened when, in his pre-election interview, Runion said, "We need to be very involved. It is a major portion of our water supply and we have to really safeguard the integrity of that."

The Northeastern Industrial Park now occupies most of the old Army depot land. The town was wise to require a master plan from the park; although it is a private business, its activities affect public welfare. After much delay, the Northeastern Industrial Park released an environmental impact statement this summer.

We were again heartened when Runion, in his pre-election interview, said he had concerns with the statement, especially about traffic and environmental protection.

The industrial park wants to build now in two places that have been classified as areas of concern, something opposed by members of the Restoration Advisory Board.

"They can’t build on areas of concern," Runion said in his pre-election interview. "We wouldn’t allow it; those areas have to be cleaned up first."

With the clear mandate given the Democrats on Election Day, we trust Runion’s administration will follow through with those pre-election promises.

The Runion Administration has a good track record on planning, which is key to environmental protection.

Runion is proud to point to the town parks that have been improved or added during his tenure — including the Western Turnpike Golf Course and the soccer fields at DiCaprio Park. This fall, he also took steps to investigate making a town park on the remaining depot land, which the federal government no longer plans to use.

The idea was first broached by Ausfeld a year ago. He maintained that industrial development on the site would disturb the soil; the town, he said, would be in a better position to prevent any danger to residents if it acquired the land from the federal government and made it into a park.

The key for that land and the other areas of concern is cleanup. The federal government caused the mess and the federal government should pay to clean it up. With active town involvement, that’s more likely to happen.

What a wise way for the Democrats to spend their political capital — ensuring future generations cleaner water and healthier lives.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor


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