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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 18, 2010

When will Guilderland take over Strong’s sewers?

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Steve Strong, the president of State Farm Utility Corporation, is trying to put himself out of business.

He appeared before the town board on Tuesday night to ask for its approval of an $80,000 bank loan, so he can repair the deteriorated sewer system that SFUC owns. The company, consisting solely of Strong, operates the last remaining private sewer district in Guilderland; it serves Presidential Estates, Heritage Village apartments, Colonial Woods, Farnsworth Middle School, and the Guilderland School District Office.

The system was built over 40 years ago, and, once Strong has had the pipes repaired, he hopes the town will exercise its right to purchase the system from him for one dollar. SFUC has had an agreement with the town since the 1960s, stating that the town would eventually take over the sewer system.

The system originally included a sewage treatment plant, until the town enlarged the Nott Road treatment center in the 1980s, and the SFUC directed its sewage to the town sewer line and demolished the plant.

Strong told the town board that his father had been one of the original developers of Heritage Village, but went bankrupt. Strong agreed to take over ownership of what he thought was just the original treatment plant, before it was demolished. However, after the treatment plant’s use was discontinued, Strong realized he also owned the pipes.

The agreement SFUC made with the town in the 1960s is still valid, but changes in the codes, and agreements between the town and the state and federal governments, require the pipes to be brought up to town standards before ownership can be transferred. The agreement between SFUC and the town dictates that Strong must get town approval before taking out a loan in the company’s name.

In September, the deteriorated pipes became impossible to ignore, when five houses on Presidential Way experienced sewage backflow into their basements. Strong exhausted his funds to help pay for the repairs, he said. 

He organized a meeting with the Presidential Estates Homeowners’ Association to let them know that, once the town takes over the sewage system, the annual sewage treatment costs will increase — from $125 to the town-wide rate of $300. David Freeman, vice president of the homeowners’ association, also addressed the town board on Tuesday.

He said the association had a great deal of support for the project, and that Strong, and the town’s water and wastewater supervisor, William West, had been very open about the entire process. Most residents did not view the rate increase as a problem, Freeman said.

“There are over 70 homes, and none are immune to potential sewer sludge damage. It’s OK for us to pay our fair share to get treatment,” said Freeman.

Strong said he got the $80,000 quote for the engineering study and repairs from Barton and Loguidice, LLC, and that the company would like to start work immediately to get readings on the spring rain. If the project were delayed past April 1, there would be a risk of having to wait another year, said Strong.

“It might not be a problem for Mr. Strong to wait a year, but for 70 homeowners, waiting a year is too big a risk to take,” said Freeman.

If SFUC were simply to default, the town would have to step in and take over anyway, to protect the health and safety of the residents.

“I’ve been having conversations with West annually, asking him how I can get rid of this thing,” Strong concluded. “Just take it!”

The town board voted unanimously to approve Strong’s $80,000 loan, but agreed that there was no timetable for the town’s takeover of SFUC.

Other business

In other business, the town board voted recently to:

— Authorize two Household Hazardous Waste Days, on May 22 and Sept. 11, and an Electronics Collection Day, on April 24, and also authorize the supervisor to submit a grant application for a portion of the cost of holding the collection days;

— Award a bid for yard-waste grinding and removal from the transfer station to SM Gallivan, LLC;

— Schedule a public hearing, for April 6 at 7:30 p.m., on the request of Michaels Group to amend Local Law 1 of 1993, Mill Hill subdivision, to change the number of residential units, from 24 townhouses and 88 condominiums, to 74 townhouses;

— Schedule a public hearing, for April 6 at 8:00 p.m., for Water District Extension 78;

— Schedule a public hearing, for April 6 at 8:30 p.m., for Water District Extension 77;

— Authorize the expenditure of $183,500 from the water reserve funds for the replacement of water line on Fuller Road as part of the Albany County Fuller Road reconstruction project;

— Adopt the County All-Hazard Mitigation Plan, for the purpose of making the town eligible for mitigation grant application and funding;

— Authorize the Department of Water and Wastewater to enter into agreement with Barton and Loguidice, LLC, for engineering services to prepare a Beneficial Use Permit Application with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation for an alternate disposal of the water treatment plant’s alum sludge; and,

— Award a bid for sanitary sewer lining to Lash Contracting of Latham, as recommended by the Department of Water and Wastewater Management.

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