PINE BUSH – One of two new sources of water for Pine Bush’s strained water system has been pushed off until spring and the other, a larger project involving Orange County, won’t realistically be on line until fall 2018, Crawford Supervisor Charles Carnes said this week.
Both projects are still alive, but the town is still busy piecing together plans to cover the millions of dollars needed to get the jobs done.
Carnes met earlier this month with Dave Church, commissioner of the county’s planning department, to advance the bigger project which would draw water from property once put aside for a reservoir that was never built. Eenika Cruz, administrator of the county’s water authority, is also involved in the discussions.
In September, Carnes was optimistic that the smaller of the projects would be providing water by late this fall. That project, on property along Route 52 owned by Howard Dubois, is expected to cost about $1 million. Dubois has already drilled wells on his property and water samples have been sent to the Orange County Department of Health for testing. Early indications are that the wells, with a combined output of more than 200 gallons a minute, are productive enough to warrant hooking them up to the Pine Bush system.
As negotiations now stand, Dubois would pay to develop the wells and run a line out to Route 52. The water district would then run a line to connect with an existing main near the McDonald’s on Route 52. Paying for the water district’s end of the deal will require some footwork, Carnes said.
With just 600 hookups, the district is relatively small, and does not have much money on hand for big capital projects. Until recently, despite persistent water problems, the district didn’t have anything put aside for such work. Now it has about $200,000. To cover the balance, Carnes said the district will try to sell three parcels now home to discontinued or underperforming wells. More money will come from a renegotiated lease with American Tower Corp., which has a cell tower on water district land. American Tower now pays the district $3,000 a month. The new deal is expected to more than triple that amount, providing the district $10,000 a month for 98 months. The rest of the money will have to be borrowed, Carnes said. The district is already paying off two bonds and its ability to borrow more is limited. The district still owes $755,000, said Denise Thorn, the town bookkeeper. One bond runs through 2025 and the other 2027. For now, the payments on principal and interest costs $90,625 a year, Thorn said.
The county has more financial might, and would figure in getting the bigger water project off the ground, Carnes said. Thanks to a grant from the state, test wells have been drilled on the land, near the hamlet of Searsville, once envisioned as the Dwaarkill Reservoir. Earlier this year, the town said those wells could provide up to 400 gallons a minute. To finance this project, expected to run $3 million to $4 million, Orange County would borrow the money, which the water district would then pay off. Although the details have not yet been worked out, the water district would probably buy water from the county and operate the system.
Carnes said that water rates, now set at $6 per 1,000 gallons in the district and three times that outside the district, would have to increase. By how much won’t be known until a lease is worked out with Dubois and the deal with Orange County is completed.
At the last town board meeting, the water department reported that the average daily usage for October was about 170,000 gallons. That is close to the roughly 177,000 gallons a day that the county says can safely be drawn. The head of the town’s own water and sewer department, Thomas McKelvey, would put the safe number even lower at 136,000 gallons. Meanwhile usage peaks above 200,000 gallons on some days during the year. There is seldom extra water to flush the system, keep the pipes clean and prevent customers from reporting clogged appliances, foul odors and strange-tasting coffee.
Limited water supplies can also stunt growth. No new major hookups can be done until the water supply is increased.