KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: What Ulster County Citizens Need To Know and How Local Action Makes Global Impacts” on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers located at 420 Broadway, in Kingston NY from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Guest panelists include Jeremy Cherson of Riverkeeper, Sue Rosenberg of Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline/CAPP-NY, Jen Metzger of Citizens For Local Power and a Rosendale Town Councilwoman and Andy Bicking of Scenic Hudson. The short film “Hudson River at Risk 6: A Pipeline Runs Through It” will be presented by Writer, filmmaker and adventurer and six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council Jon Bowermaster.
The event is brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Co-sponsored by Riverkeeper, Citizens for Local Power, Scenic Hudson, CAPP-NY, the Local Economies Project and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, Kingston Land Trust, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Earth Guardians NY, Citizen Action NY and Sustainable Hudson Valley. With support from the City of Kingston, the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Rosendale, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Ulster County Legislature and 103rd District Assemblyman Kevin Cahill.
VIEW Event on Facebook for up-to-date information on this important local event.
Kingston, NY – Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC has proposed to construct two parallel pipelines that would run along the NYS Thruway and through private property—one pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil south from Albany, NY, to a refinery in Linden, NJ, and the other carrying refined products north. The 170+ miles of pipelines, together with nearly 13 miles of lateral pipelines, would impact 31 communities in Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Ulster, Orange, and Rockland counties, as well as 30+ communities in New Jersey. The carrying capacity of each pipeline would be 200,000 barrels (or 8.4 million gallons) per day, which would more than double the number of trains carrying volatile Bakken crude to the Port of Albany at the peak of Bakken crude production in 2014. The increase in crude-by-rail volume means that the project will also impact many communities north and west of Albany through which the CSX and Canadian Pacific rail lines run.
Yesterday, we learned that the proposed shooting range proposal slated for Midtown, Kingston was to be placed on the Finance Committee agenda for discussion today (Wednesday, 4/13). If you are like us, that’s barely enough time to plan to attend for an issue that might be of interest. All of our schedules are thrown to get there within 24 hours. But this is the way our council has outwardly communicated with the public for as long as we can remember, making it very hard for citizens to engage.
At last March’s Public Safety/General Committee meeting, the shooting range proposal was also placed on the agenda. But unlike today, the agenda was never made public which means, citizens couldn’t plan to attend at all. Dr. Adam Soyer, however, who is proposing the shooting range along with his supporters were in attendance. The discussion therefore, had only the potential of being one-sided.
At the last Water Board Meeting, a board member made a motion to “Make sure that those who record meetings notify us prior to doing such action and that we have a record of those doing such.”
In other words, you can’t record their meetings unless you alert the board in advance and then, submit some form of paperwork to be determined. It passed through unanimously and their Lawyer, Bill Cloonan, clarified and obliged (see video below. Starts at 7:31 and ends at 9:18).
What the board and their lawyer may not have realized is that what they requested was against NYS Open Meetings Law on recording devices.
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning advisor, called Albany to confirm that this was the case, and crafted a letter to the Water Board requesting that they overturn the motion based on judicial precedents (see below).
Citizens have the right to record all city meetings, and as it pertains to the water board – we will continue to do so until the end of time. Or until at least the City of Kingston does it themselves. Water management is just too important for us not to.
We hope that this instance helps to inform the public on their rights in this case.
Our lives are intimately impacted by the decisions made by our elected and appointed officials on all fronts. In this case, regarding water, by voting ‘YES’ to include the Common Council on all sales of water outside Kingston’s corporate limits, we have a real opportunity to assure better decisions to be made.
Please take note. The Water Sales Referendum will be on the BACK OF THE BALLOT on November 3rd.
At last night’s Common Council Caucus, Council members discussed Resolution #134 to “Amend Charter to Authorize Public Referendum re: Water Powers”. Alderman-at-Large James Noble and Corporation Council Andrew Zweben were in attendance.
It appears to have been determined that the Charter amendment of Water Powers would be a local law change, which would require two readings and a public hearing to be set by the Mayor within 10 days after the first reading. The first reading would take place tomorrow night if the Council votes to approve the referendum. A public hearing would occur sometime in or around June 12th. The second reading would then be read at the July 7th Common Council meeting with a full council vote to follow to pass (or not) the referendum through to the November ballot.
At last evening’s meeting, Corporation Council Andy Zweben clarified that “The press release that was issued by the Water Department was not authorized by the Mayor, or the other members of the Water Department to the best of his knowledge and does not represent how he feels on this issue.” Andy Zweeben also relayed that speaking to the Mayor today, he stated that “…if the local law is passed, he will sign it. They’ll be a referendum and the voters will decide.”
Zweeben also expressed his discomfort with “the speed in which the referendum was moving” (* Please see below). But the Public Safety/General Government Committee has been working on this since March of this year where his office has been in attendance. That’s three months of discussion and it being on the Corporation Council’s radar. Regardless, we appreciate Corporation Council’s efforts here. Whether willingly or not, they provided the council with the information that they needed to move this ahead.
In order now for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, the council will need to pass through the resolution for referendum tomorrow, and a public process as described above must take place. All of which needs to be accomplished by the end of August in order for it to be submitted to the Board of Elections.
* Clarification: Watching for many months in this case, we have seen the Water Powers change go from a local law change, to a referendum to a combination of the two. As citizens, we depend on the good advice of our elected and appointed officials to understand the proper process.
We received a communication from Corporation Council Andrew Zweeben who said that we had misrepresented what he said at the last Public Safety/General Government committee meeting (see above and below). On the subject of the speed of the referendum, what he was referring to was that it was quick to draft an amended local law in just one week (5 days) which is true and he would have preferred more time to do so. Given the tight deadline to get this passed and onto the ballot in November, it is the case. We apologize for the misunderstanding.
You can view video from last evening’s meeting: 11:16 – 17:08 Resolution 134
“Amend charter to authorize public referendum re: Water Powers”
Tonight (June 2nd), the Common Council will vote on whether or not to pass a resolution for a referendum. If it does, the first reading of the proposed amendment will take place for the clock to start ticking.
Citizens are encouraged to speak tonight to support (or not) of a referendum for the November ballot. Public Comment will begin tonight at 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to secure a seat and to sign-up. This event will be filmed thanks to Kingston News.
Monday, June 1st, 2015
Kingston Common Council Caucus
Conference Room #1
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Kingston Common Council
Kingston City Hall
420 Broadway, Kingston
Both meetings will be filmed.
By Rebecca Martin
At last week’s Public Safety/General Government Committee meeting, a resolution for a referendum to be placed on the ballot in November passed unanimously through to the Common Council. The referendum, if approved by a full Council vote, would give the public the opportunity to vote on whether or not to amend the charter to include the Common Council for “Water Supply Outside of City”.
In Section C11-5C (Water Supply Outside of City), it says: (C) Such sales or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission” (the NYS Water Power and Control Commission today is the Department of Environmental Conservation aka DEC). The referendum would ask the public to approve or not the inclusion of the Common Council, “and the common council.” That simple amendment would give the public a say as to water sales outside of Kingston’s city limits. Additionally, Kingston would automatically be an “Involved” agency in SEQR in the case one were ever triggered again.
In the meantime, the public’s water would have a layer of protection that would allow for thoughtful policy to be developed for sustainable growth and economic development using this precious public resource.
This is one of many steps that need to be taken in order to help protect Cooper Lake and our watershed as a whole. But by assuring that the sale of water outside of our small, local municipality includes our Common Council – it is a significant one.
WHAT TO EXPECT: June 1st
Caucus (Monday, 6/1), which is a public meeting of supporters and members of a specific political party (in Kingston, our nine alderpersons are made up of eight democrats and one republican), occurs each month the evening before the full Common Council meetings. Much discussion is generally had on all agenda items, as well as often, conclusions as to which way council members will cast their vote the following evening. There isn’t a sign-up for public comment during Caucus, however you may contact Matt Dunn, the Council Majority Leader (see email address below), if you wish to be added to the agenda. For those who can attend caucus, it is always enlightening and in this case, and if added to the agenda, will help you to better understand the dynamics that surround this issue.
WHAT TO EXPECT: June 2nd
It is very important that the public plan to attend the Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, June 2nd to speak in support of the public referendum as described above if you are in favor of it. Please consider to thank the Public Safety/General Government Committee for their leadership role here and on passing the resolution for referendum through to Council. Request that the City take any necessary steps to make a referendum possible for the November, 2015 ballot. A public comment period begins shortly after 7:30pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to sign-up to speak. Keep your comments succinct, respectful and no longer than 3 minutes in length.
If you cannot be in attendance next week but wish to share your thoughts with city officials regarding this matter, with “REFERENDUM: Water Supply Powers” in the subject.
Mayor Shayne Gallo
Alderman-at-Large James Noble
Matt Dunn, Ward 1 andMajority Leader firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Seche, Ward 2
“Infrastructure must be maintained. People come to rely on that service. The general population doesn’t stop to think “If I didn’t have water, how would my life be affected? How valuable is that infrastructure to my quality of life that I have? How much am I paying for it vs. how important is it to my life?”
– Fred Testa, EFC
“Many municipalities say “I haven’t raised water rates. Re-elect me!” Not good. You need to continually keep pace with the cost of running your system. One of the ways you do that is by increasing your rates to recognize that things cost more as you move forward. You also recognize that things may not break next year, but may in five years – and you keep projecting future costs.”
– Candace Balmer, RCAP
Last evening, KingstonCitizens.org hosted a “Water & Waste Water Infrastructure 101” educational panel with guests Water Resource Specialist Candace Balmer of RCAP Solutions and Environmental Project Manager Fred Testa from NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation.
Close to 50 people were in attendance that included elected and appointed officials, representatives from many of our environmental organizations and citizens alike.
Thanks to our sponsors for this event that include the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper and to Kingston News for providing a live stream of the event and the following video.
0:00 – 1:56: QUESTION, Dan Shapley ”If there is a water quality problem the community is aware of, but isn’t documented on the list it’s not helping getting funding for that project?”
“If the project is going to improve water quality (class b vs. class c) does that effect the score of the project?”
3:00 – 4:04: MODERATOR
MHI (Median Household Income) is $44,000 in Kingston, making us likely to be eligible for funding.
“How is the water supply changing based on growth and change in the landscape? The way we manage, monitor, maintain?”
4:06 – 5:58: Fred Testa, EFC
“State Department of Health has the role of regulating the quality of water.”
6:00 – 6:24:MODERATOR
“Would you say that there is an increasing burden on small communities in the way of managing infrastructure?”
6:26: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Demographic changes and the financial impact from shrinking communities.”
7:02 – 7:16: MODERATOR
“H0w is the role of the government changed to met that gap? Is it doing so?
7:17: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Water is free, but the pipes that are bringing it to you are not. It costs more than what they want to deal with.”
8:28 – 12:20: MODERATOR
“In the Kingston system, rates might have to go up to provide for infrastructure needs. In the present, we are struggling to meet that demand. Can we talk for a moment about different rate structures, and what you’re seeing as best practice? Kingston has a descending rate structure today.”
9:25: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“We advocate a level rate structure and per gallon charge so that there isn’t any base usage. It’s called FULL COST PRICING.”
“How does that play out in the community?”
10:18: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“You have fixed costs. If people decide to use less to save money, the department still has to meet those costs.”
11:24: Fred Testa, EFC
“Some small communities have a simple, flat rate. In the old days, things were more simple and it’s not as simple today. In waste water, sometimes the expense on the property owner is based in part on property values.”
12:21 – 13:38: MODERATOR
“You brought asset management which the City of Kingston is undergoing for its waste water infrastructure. Can you tell us more about it and how you might be involved? By the way, it’s the most expensive piece of infrastructure for the COK to run. It was found in our climate action plan that the municipality is responsible for that, and the cost of repairs would be 3 x more than we thought given it’s in the flood plain. Instead of it being $2 million dollars it’s more like $6 million in longterm costs.”
13:40 – 18:56: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“People don’t always understand where their dollars are going, (chemicals, transmission, admin, debt repayment, etc.). It’s about getting the most value for your equipment. It costs more to fix something once it’s broken than when it was planned for so to be replaced in a timely manner. Assets are pipes, buildings, tanks, equipment, security, tools, office/lab. These are things that you have invested in and you recognize that they have a life span and when they break, you want to make sure that you have access to the things that you need to replace them efficiently and think of about financing for these replacements beforehand. The first thing you do is an inventory. You want to identify what your assets are and prioritize your critical assets. Those that you’ll be really in trouble if you don’t have a back-up or money in the kitty for replacement. Many communities don’t have maps. It’s very important to know what and where these assets are. What’s the expected use for life of an asset and how much does it cost? You’ve got to be saving money and setting it aside in dedicated accounts.”
18:29 – 18:56: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Many municipalities say “I haven’t raised water rates. Re-elect me!” Not good. You need to continually keep pace with the cost of running your system. One of the ways you do that is by increasing your rates to recognize that things cost more as you move forward. You also recognize that things may not break next year, but may in five years – and you keep projecting future costs.”
19:11 – 19:52: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Long term vs. short plan terming – you want to have the name of what you are replacing in that account so that extra money in water budgets are not transferred. You need dedicated reserve accounts.”
19:57 – 22:58: MODERATOR
“The EFC brought a list of what Kingston has borrowed from the revolving funds since 1994/1998. How does EFC Work with a city like Kingston on Asset Management?
20:56 – 22:58:Fred Testa, ECF
“We would mostly be urging them to do that. Asset Management plans are a growing phenomenon. It wasn’t done in the past. There is a growing interest to do this and the DEC is starting to work on a plan making it required. What will the rates be? How will they need to be raised in order to avoid crisis? Asset Management will take communities a long way to know what will be happening. They are a live plan. They do no good to put them up on the shelf and not revisited and updated consistently.”
22:59 – 24:06MODERATOR
“The State is trying to incorporate best practices for rating and in awarding funding. Communities should invest where they already exist vs. sprawling. Invest in existing communities instead of newer projects.”
“Can you speak to New Paltz regarding waste water? You spoke about Smart Growth. What does that mean environmentally?”
25:18 – 26:35Fred Testa, EFC
We are looking at a project with new infrastructure or expand new service area. Has the municipality planned for growth in that area? Does it add properties that local growth hasn’t thought about. We are looking to see if the local gov have considered impacts on the communities. Was it planned for? Is a comp plan available to avoid uncontrolled sprawl that have adverse effects.
27:06 – 27:26QUESTION: Rebecca Martin (Kingston)
“Can you speak a little bit to inter-municipal partnerships and how funding increase, or the benefits?”
27:28 – 29:56Fred Testa, EFC
“We want to see that there is capacity at a treatment plant for both, that the communities have already talked. We want to see an inter-municipal agreement. A legal contract drawn up by the parties. Tying in smart growth, the idea is if there is a treatment plant nearby it may be best for everyone to make use of it.”
29:57 – 30:40: MODERATOR
“There was a discussion in Kingston and Ulster in looking at that sort of collaboration in the past. I don’t know where those discussions are today. Also Comprehensive Plans can engage in other communities under municipal law to generate inter-municipal agreements.”
30:41 – 43:04:QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will (Kingston)
“I think this should be mandatory attendance for all muniapl leaders. Looking at the revolving fund loans for Kingston and noticing out of 14 there are 3 that originated from the Kingston water dept, all happening in 2012 under 1/2 million – 6.2 million. In the dealings with the KWD are you in close contact or are there ongoing communications with KWD since 2012?
32:32:Fred Testa, EFC
“I myself haven’t worked with Kingston, but the water district is referenced here – but the COK was the borrower here, not the Water Department.”
QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will
“We have a flooding task force that looked at conditions in the Rondout, historically it’s been very industrial. Are there funding mechanisms to assist with businesses and private property owners to help mitigate flooding problems?”
34:49:Fred Testa, EFC
“Not through EFC. There may be funding through the Consolidated Funding Application.”
35:43: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“There may be funding through Community Development Block Grant for these things.”
35:59 – 38:13MODERATOR and Fred Testa, EFC
“Kingston is going through it’s brownfield area opportunity, a GEIS of great magnitude that will allow business and property owners to move through the SEQR process more quickly. Through the DOS. The program, unfortunately, has sun setted but hopefully there will be more opportunities.” (more on the CFA Program, Green Innovations grant, all happen in June). “Kingston has been on the ball and have qualified for a great number of grants. As have the county. We have a green infrastructure project for Sophie Finn School.”
38:19 – 40:22 Candace Balmer, RCAP
“I want to answer your question, Brad. The CDBG program, one is public infrastructure, planning, public facilities and economic development of small business and enterprise. I don’t know if the economic development section would apply, but it’s worth looking that up. For joint applications, there are strict requirements, but if you were a join applications you could apply for more funding.”
“Kingston is an entitlement city, not entitlement county. Kingston’s CDBG goes through HUD (Housing and Urban Development).”
40:44:QUESTION: Ward 3 Alderman Brad Will
“What is the percentage of applications that are approved through the EFC?”
40:54 – 41:00:Fred Testa, EFC
“Last year we financed every application.”
“The window is closing for the hardship applications. If Kingston wanted to apply for the round that moves forward in 2016 and are not listed this year how would that work?”
41:24: 43:04Fred Testa, EFC
I think Kingston has projects listed in the drinking water plant, but not waste water. The City received funding last September for a study 30,000 to study the engineering planning grant WW treatment plant for improvements. They can then give us a listing form, get on the intended use plan and get a score to hopefully be high enough to apply for hardship financing. Projects can apply for up to $25 million, $18 million at 0% The city is not in a position to apply because they are not on the list. Step one. Get on the list.“
“Troubled that we are talking about conventional waste water treatment plants. They don’t include pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, hormones. However newer technologies methods do. Those plants require less maintenance impacting costs. Who do we get to help us to be directed towards innovative approaches, especially considering NYS watershed?”
44:42: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Most don’t describe technology requirements, though must be technically approvable. In that way, it’s all fundable.”
45:18:Fred Testa, EFC
“If there are new technologies being considered, the DEC which permits waste water treatment plants allows them to discharge treated wastewater as long as it meets cleanliness regulations. If they are presented with new technologies, they are going to want to see proven technical evidence.”
Candace Balmer, RCAP
“If it breaks, they want to see that you can get the pieces easily for repair. That don’t want you to put in something that is problematic in that way.”
Kathy Nolan CM
“What you’re describing is a system that doesn’t have a way to perhaps get started in communities that use better technology. With the Green Innovation funding stream, can we can get a plant funded to be used as a pilot to see how it functions and if it’s possible to create more of them. We keep coming to the same point in the conversation. We need to do something that gets us into the better technology.”
Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Get with your regulator. Have them come with you and chat about concerns. Sometimes it’s an individual look at concerns.”
48:27 – 50: 04QUESTION: Joanne Steel, Mid-Hudson Sierra Club
“Town of Lloyd had a rebed system that was doing very well. Are you familiar with it?”
49:06 Fred Testa, EFC
“That was a wetland. It’s not a rebed for sludge.”
49:17Candace Balmer, EFC
“Though it’s an example of their working with the DEC to get that project off the ground.”
50:11 – 53:53: QUESTION: Mary McNamara (Saugerties)
“In our region there are often neighborhoods where Septic Systems have failed. To accommodate, water districts have been created. It’s to o expense to bring in a clean water program. The nearby surface waters are impacted. I see it more and more. What funding programs exist for individuals?”
51:25:Candace Balmer, RCAP
“Looking at it from a community perspective, what EPA has promoted is decentralized water management concept with responsible management entity. Pay the bills. You can have a management district that manage onsite. Woodstock has a management area where they inspect and repair individual septic systems. There’s a variety of ways. For individuals, there are not a lot of programs. If you are poor or elderly you can get up to 7500 in a lifetime and septic systems are one of them that you can use it for.”
53:34: Fred Testa, EFC
“There is Housing Improvement in CDBG to improve septic systems for private drinking water wells.”
53:54 – 58:05: MODERATOR
“Kingston represents a community that has experienced it all. Now we are dealing with the burdens in dealing with infrastructure. How do we look down the road to address this challenge?”
56:11 – 57:16: Fred Testa, EFC
“You need people to sit down and focus. Asset management approach forces people to look at specific elements of infrastructure and plan accordingly. Infrastructure must be maintained. People come to rely on that service. The general population doesn’t stop to think “If I didn’t have water, how would my life be affected? How valuable is that infrastructure to my quality of life that I have? How much am I paying for it vs. how important is it to my life?”
57:19 – 58:05: Candace Balmer, RCAP
“It takes the community. When we do project planning we get everyone at the table. The regulators, the public, the board. Lets all sit down at what we’re looking at and what it costs.”
To be considered as a Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:
Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: email@example.com by April 30th, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
On May 31st 2015, Water Board Commissioner Al Radel’s term will expire. Radel has served as a Commissioner on the Water Board now for 15 years, which is three terms. We appreciate his service.
That means, that a spot is opening up – and we are hoping that citizens who are interested in serving will step up.
The Mayor of Kingston appoints citizens (and business persons) to most Commissions/Boards/Councils in Kingston. Recently, we reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out what the process was. You know how fast we move around here, and after the second request without getting information, we decided to lay out our questions in a PETITION to give the public a chance to weigh in. That petition is live now, so have a look, consider signing it and leave a comment.
The questions were simple.
KingstonCitizens.org requests that Mayor Shayne Gallo require Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen to:
Make both the description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s role and length of term visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.
Make all of the current members of the Board of Water Commissioners biographies and length of service to date visible and public on the City of Kingston’s Water Department web page.
The City of Kingston’s Mayor, who appoints Board of Water Commissioners, publish a public notice in a timely fashion announcing its search for new candidates for the upcoming term. This announcement should include a description of the Board of Water Commissioner’s expected role; preferred experience / qualifications for candidates; contact info and deadline for submissions; and the term length.
Yesterday, we heard from Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen who responded:
“The Mayor asked that I contact you to let you know that appointments to the Board of Water Commissioners are made by the Mayor and that if you have anyone that would like to be considered for the position, they should submit their CV to him via the City Clerk’s Office. Neither the Board nor any employee of the Water Department, including the Superintendent has any role in or input into the selection process.”
Not much in the way of answering our questions. Then later, we heard directly from Mayor Gallo’s office:
“This is in reply to your inquiry about how vacancies and/or appointments are made to the Board of Water Commissioners or any other City board or Commission. Be advised the following process has been used since the City Charter has been adopted: Any interested City resident and/or business person may apply for consideration to any City Board and/or Commission by providing a letter of interest with a resume and background information and/or curriculum vitae of said individual. The interested party should submit the above to the City Clerk’s Office. Upon receipt, the letter of interest shall will forwarded to my office for review and consideration. If you know of an interested City resident who would like to be considered for appointment to the Board of Water Commissioners and/or other City boards and commissions, please share the above information with them. Thank you for your interest.”
The points unanswered at least expose something critical. We have some information on the process, but nothing that we didn’t already know.
So why can’t the City of Kingston provide a description of a Water Board Commissioner? Or nail down their term? Or share their biographies and experience so that we know who is at the helm of our water supply? Or put out a notice in the papers to residents with a deadline for their response?
As we are entering into an election cycle, we will take these things up again at an appropriate time. We intend to advocate for Kingston to overhaul it’s city charter at a future date.
To be considered as a new Commissioner of the Kingston Water Board:
Please submit your resume/CV (Curriculum Vitae) to Carly Williams, City of Kingston Clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org by April 3oth, 2015 (because we were not given a date by the Mayor’s office, this date is arbitrary. However, we presume that it gives the city time to collect interest and make a decision).
KingstonCitizens.org sponsors a public educational discussion titled “Water and Waste Water Infrastructure 101” on Tuesday, March 24th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library, 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY. The group’s guest will be Water Resource Specialist Candace Balmer of RCAP Solutions (Resources for Communities and People).
Kingston, NY: KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present an educational discussion titled “Water and Waste Water Infrastructure 101” on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 at the Kingston Public Library, 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY. from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. Moderated by KingstonCitizens.org’s Jennifer Schwartz Berky, the group will have the opportunity to speak with Water Resource Specialist CANDACE BALMER to explore water and wastewater infrastructure, how it is and can be funded, the importance of regular maintenance and the reality of periodic rate increases to keep this huge investment functioning. A question and answer period will also take place.
This event is free to the public and will be filmed by Kingston News. Sponsored by KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper.
Ms. Balmer joined RCAP Solutions in March 1997 after previous experience as Associate Director, Pollution Abatement Technology Program at Westchester Community College and as Project Engineer with Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM). Advisory Boards and Task Forces: NY Onsite Wastewater Training Network (OTN); Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership (LEWP); NYC DEP-coordinated Ashokan Reservoir Working Group (ARWG). Education: A.A.S. Water Quality Monitoring; B.A. Anthropology; M.S. Environmental Engineering.
RCAP Solutions, Inc. is the Northeast regional partner of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). RCAP is federally funded to assist small rural communities with water and wastewater projects.
About KingstonCitizens.org KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.
With Support from:
About Woodstock Land Conservancy The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.
About Riverkeeper To protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.
About Catskill Mountainkeeper
To be the strongest and most effective possible advocate for the Catskill region; working through a network of concerned citizens we promote sustainable growth and protect the natural resources essential to healthy communities.
“As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship.” – KingstonCitizens.org
On December 29th, 2014 SUNY Ulster President Donald Katt RESPONDED to the hundreds of letters generated by KingstonCitizens.org from concerned citizens regarding the possible acceptance of the Niagara Bottling Company into the Start-Up NY program.
The long awaited ANNOUNCEMENT from Governor Cuomo was issued on that same day with two of the five proposals submitted to Start-Up NY by SUNY Ulster selected. Neither of them were Niagara Bottling Company. Good work everyone!
However, Start-Up NY is a new program, and we’ve seen multiple announcements made over the last 6 months at participating campuses. Until we hear otherwise, SUNY Ulster’s three other proposed businesses at Ulster (that includes Niagara) could be ON THE TABLE AT A LATER DATE.
We are committed to seeing this through to the very end with you.
Thank you for your LETTER dated December 29, 2014 in response to Kingston Citizens regarding Start-Up New York. We are dedicated to promoting transparency in government through civic engagement and public education. While we are interested in understanding the decisions that led to your support of the Niagara Bottling Company for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, our focus is broader. For the past decade, we have engaged the community and our leaders in meaningful dialogue about governance and community development. We believe that the public has the right and the obligation to understand how decisions are made in the public interest.
In your letter, you suggest that Ulster County citizens and groups are engaged in a ‘robust debate’ regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. However, so much of the information about the proposal has not been made available to the public. While we recognize the importance of confidentiality in certain aspects of business, the basis for decisions in the public interest must be clear. The public cannot engage in an open, fact-based debate where the decision-making criteria and process are not transparent.
As John Adams said, we are “a government of laws, and not of men.” This is the ethic we hope to preserve through our work at Kingston Citizens, and we resolve – in this New Year – to continue to ask our leaders to be role models of citizenship. It is in this spirit that we invite you to meet with representatives of the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club and Kingston Citizens in the next two weeks to share information regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal and to engage in – as you called it – “an important and welcome part of that discussion.”
In what follows, I respond to the points in your letter (showing your text in bold italics) with the hope that we can continue a fact-based dialogue in our proposed meeting:
Thank you for copying me on the email you sent to the Commissioner of Economic Development and the Chancellor of the State University of New York. New York has a history of robust debate when it comes to environmental and economic development issues and input from concerned citizens and groups is an important and welcome part of that discussion. […] Reviewing the process and the credentials that were considered in the case of Niagara Bottling, I cannot imagine an outcome other than that which we reached given the defined role that the College performs.
We welcome “robust debate.” Your letter states that you cannot imagine another outcome than the one reached by the College. However, debate and discussion are dependent upon a shared review of all available information. We would like to learn more about the scientific, economic and educational aspects of your decision making process. The Start-Up New York regulations require the college to describe, in its application, how the proposed businesses would generate positive community and economic benefits, including:
diversification of the local economy,
environmental sustainability, and
opportunities as a magnet for economic and social growth.
These required criteria are not discussed in the proposal. We are concerned about how or whether the Niagara Bottling plant can meet these and the other criteria of the Start Up New York program.
I want to clarify the role of SUNY Ulster within the context of the Start-Up NY program with which we, along with many other components of SUNY have chosen to become actively engaged. The steps defined by the SUNY Chancellor’s office are clear and concise and include filing a plan for participation, which we did, being one of the first few in the state to receive approval.
As a part of that defined process, we named a committee to meet with and review proposed projects to determine if the prospective company was eligible to complete a proposal to be forwarded to New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) for consideration. At that point, if recommended, the campus president forwards the project to ESD.
Given the great need for economic development in our area and the importance of environmental sustainability – a responsibility we all bear, but which should be of particular importance to an educational institution that sets an example for its students and community – we ask that you share more information about the decision making process that led to the approval of Niagara Bottling Company’s application to participate in Start Up New York. The environmental ramifications, local, regional and beyond, are important in any enterprise. As such, opening questions for our dialogue with you and the Start-Up New York committee would include:
What was the analysis that led to your decision to support the Niagara Bottling plant project?
Was there a cost/benefit analysis as part of your evaluation? What were the results?
What were the environmental considerations reviewed by the committee?
As for the jobs and links to the educational mission of SUNY Ulster, what were the criteria used to determine whether these would provide meaningful educational opportunities for the students and link to SUNY Ulster’s mission?
In addition, did the committee evaluate the proposed wages in connection with the living wage standards in Ulster County?
What other proposals received by SUNY Ulster (you mention that about 20 businesses applied) and how were they evaluated? Is this evaluation ongoing?
We understand that the Start-Up New York application review process requires the college to provide certification of its notification of and any written responses to the proposal by the municipality or municipalities surrounding the proposed off-campus site, as well as responses by the college faculty senate, union representatives and the campus student government. We appreciate the college’s esteemed tradition in the environmental management field and your awareness of this issue. Therefore, since the source of water from Kingston’s reservoir is in Woodstock, we question why these two municipalities were not participants in the notification process and why this documentation was omitted from the 39 PAGE AMENDED PLAN DATED AUGUST 29th, 2014 FROM SUNY ULSTER.
It is now up to other agencies with different clearly defined processes to analyze and make determinations about the viability and value of the project. Being an educator and one with a strong belief in informed decision-making based upon factual information, I look forward to the process unfolding. However, I am not a party to, nor a decision maker within those systems.
As the leader of SUNY Ulster, you are the key participant in this process. Although the final decisions are made in Albany, the Start-Up New York Regulations make you “a party to,” and “a decision maker” for our community. In addition, the PROGRAM REGULATIONS and STATUTE do not exclude SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees from the process. Given the size, complexity, and potentially regional impacts of the Niagara Bottling plant proposal, the planning process that you oversaw is nothing less than a critical step in the decision making process. If the SUNY Ulster President’s Office has been entrusted with the responsibility of recommending a project with so many implications for our community, we believe that you have an equal responsibility to help the public understand how and why you assessed the whole of this Niagara project as worthy of funding. Furthermore, as the SUNY Ulster Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the college, we believe that their role, even if voluntary according to Start-Up New York’s guidelines, is crucial in the decision making process. They are important leaders in Ulster County with deep ties in our community.
We have had about 20 inquiries, from a variety of companies. Companies seek us out, we do not recruit companies. To this date we have submitted three applications to ESD for final approval into StartUp. All three are manufacturing-related. I support Start-Up NY, because it is a new program that looks to address the need for jobs in upstate NY. I also support it, because it allows unique learning experiences for students with participating partners. It is my hope that residents of Ulster County understand that I pursued the Niagara/StartUp only for the benefit of our students and the improvement of our local economy.
We do not see economic development and environmental protection as an “either/or” scenario. We believe that there are better alternatives to the Niagara Bottling plant proposal. In our presentation to the SUNY Trustees, we outlined reasons for concern on both fronts. In 2007, Ulster County adopted a sustainable economic development plan, “Ulster Tomorrow,” that identified core competencies that would generate innovative clusters to build our economy. The plan was completed and approved with the help of a renowned economic consultant and input from scores of leaders in every sector in our county, including Trustees and members of the SUNY Ulster community. Although we do not have the details of the two companies that have been approved for Start-Up New York at SUNY Ulster, their business models appear to be more in keeping with the concepts of sustainable development. As you noted, there were about 20 inquiries for the program. We are interested in their proposals and the potential they offer for innovation and clusters that may truly lead to job growth in our area.
A water bottling plant is not a sustainable business. So far, 90 colleges in the United States have officially banned bottled water and your students are now proposing that you make a similar commitment to sustainability in college management and curriculum. Also, as we noted in our presentation, this particular industry does not align with the well-accepted principles of clustering and sustainable development adopted in the County and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (MHREDC) plans. It is an economically isolated activity that will rely on plastics manufacturing, an industry widely acknowledged to generate major pollutants in its extraction, production, and disposal processes. The use of a publically-financed infrastructure and our municipal water supply, a natural resource with finite possibilities, to support further economic development and growth in our area is inconsistent with the goals set forth in “Ulster Tomorrow,” the MHREDC plans, and the Regional “Cleaner, Greener” Sustainability Plan supported by Governor Cuomo. Finally, this proposal is inconsistent with the “Public Trust Doctrine,” which maintains that water and other natural resources belong to the public and it is the government’s obligation to preserve them for public use.
As participants in Ulster County’s diverse, educated workforce, the constituents of Kingston Citizens support SUNY Ulster and its mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.” We respect SUNY Ulster’s tradition of excellence in environmental and economic fields of endeavor. Your mission, including “responsible use of resources,” must be aligned with regional goals that have been defined, collaboratively, with other thought leaders who are likewise committed to define, preserve and develop our assets. Our regional assets are intertwined: our valuable natural resources have a shared and equal impact upon our quality of life as humans and on our potential for future economic development. The goals of benefitting SUNY Ulster students and improving our local economy must live in harmony with our region, its valuable natural and human resources, and its economic future.
We therefore ask you to have an open and productive dialogue with us, the college community, and our leaders in economic development and environmental resource management. Given the potentially imminent decisions regarding Start Up New York, we request you meet with us as soon as possible.
Jennifer Schwartz Berky
Planning & Policy Advisor
The Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) recent denial of significant incentive funding for the proposed Niagara Bottling facility is now well known. Although we do not know at this time how their decision will impact the outcome of Niagara in the Town of Ulster, we continue on in our effort for a proper, thorough SEQRA process.
The REDC effort foreshadows further actions to come. Our united citizen effort to influence the REDC will no doubt seek the same outcome of tax incentives offered by the Start-Up NY program. There is much more to say about why Niagara Bottling is not a good match for Start-Up NY which we will get to in much greater detail shortly.
KingstonCitizens.org as well as the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club (a group populated by SUNY Ulster students) will be presenting to the SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees on Tuesday, December 16th. Their petition requesting SUNY Ulster Community College to “rescind their proposed partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company” regarding Start-Up NY will be part of their presentation.
Let us lift the students by boosting the numbers of this important petition. I’d like to see it over 1000 by the time Tuesday rolls around:
What is certain at this point is that the political leadership around the County has listened to the concerns of the larger community. It is proof that citizens carry a great deal of influence as we should.
The Niagara proposal had an initial appeal to some of our elected and appointed officials; it would help the Kingston Water Board finance much needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and begin to address a troubled underutilized property in the Town of Ulster that also carries a regional impact. These are not small problems. But the Niagara proposal, with its request to consume over 25% of a finite resource ended up not to be the best solution to them as perhaps reflected by the REDC’s change of heart.
So while we maintain our vigilance, we must also recognize the serious problems that we face that include Kingston’s aging infrastructure. The current water rate structure and it being updated to reflect sustainable (and perhaps more lucrative) measures (currently, the more you use, the less you pay. The less you use the more you pay). The Kingston Charter being updated. The health and protection of an important water body and the land that surrounds it. Providing support in ways to utilize the Tech City property for sustainable enterprises.
It is our aim to stand united to problem solve and to support our elected and appointed officials to do the same. We have been heard, and for as long as that continues we offer a positive attitude and collaborative approach toward the political leadership that seeks real solutions for the problems affecting the region.
In a letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Economic Development Council, a coalition of groups and a municipality that include KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Esopus Creek Conservancy, SaveCooperLake.org, Catskill Mountainkeper, NYPIRG, Food & Water Watch, Slow Food Hudson Valley, Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Red Hook, Woodstock NY Transition, Kingston Transition, Sustainable Saugerties and Mid-Hudson Sierra Club alerted Ms. Vargas of their concerns regarding the upcoming December 10th announcement by Governor Cuomo and Niagara Bottling Company.
“In response to the proposed Niagara Bottling plant in the Town of Ulster, a growing number of individuals, communities, and organizations in Ulster County and New York State have swiftly come together to form a coalition. Together, the group is dedicated in promoting drinking water as a common good and protecting that right for generations to come.
Niagara wants to build a bottling facility that will process at least 1 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake, using over 25% of its capacity, and plans to truck in much more than that from springs in surrounding communities.
In our efforts to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, we have learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts.
The letter outlines the specific concerns related to the REDC’s selection process, including:
The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have not yet taken place. We do not agree that funds should be awarded to a project before we know whether it could be harmful to the environment.
The Niagara Bottling proposal does not meet REDC’s “selection criteria” such as the degree of community support for the project and whether the project supports sustainable development.
The Niagara Bottling proposal does not align with the REDC’s strategic plan, and contradicts the plan for sustainable development in our region.
The economic impacts of 10-year tax exemptions (including local school and property taxes) may well outweigh the benefits of 40 to 120 below industry standard jobs, many of which are typically not offered to area residents.”
The public is invited. Public comment on any matters will be made available following “Old Business” at the end of the evening. We expect that to occur between 8:00pm – 8:30pm, though it may be later. Please see Supervisor James Quigleys’ note below. We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length. Please show respect to municipalities that you are visiting.
Here are several posts to research that will help you to create your 3 minute speech so to hit key points that evening.
As per Supervisor James Quigley regarding this month’s meeting:
“A DRAFT AGENDA will be posted Tuesday morning (we have linked it above) and is subject to change. There are no items currently listed on the Agenda related to Niagara Bottling. I am awaiting the Resolutions from Counsel prior to place the item on the Agenda. A Revised Agenda will be posted as soon as possible. There are two opportunities for the Public to speak during the meeting. In the beginning Statements may be made on Agenda Items. At the end of the meeting is Public Comment for any and all topics. Remember these are times for the Public to make statements to the Board not enter into a debate with the Town Board. Anyone who wishes will be able to address the Board during these periods. Comments are limited to three minutes per speaker and there is no yielding time to other speakers.”
The attached letter was written by Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber who shares solid arguments as to why the DEC should be Lead Agency in SEQR for the proposed Niagara Water Bottling project. In contrast for me, it raises more concerns as to Kingston Corporation Council Andy Zweben’s recent letter also to the DEC. Where are his loyalties placed?
Luckily, Kingston’s Common Council are asking the same questions and will vote on a Memoralizing resolution in support of the COK being an ‘Involved Agency’ in SEQR on Tuesday, November 4th.
The Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal must be thoroughly evaluated for its environmental and economic impacts on our region. It is premature and irresponsible to agree to sell our water before due diligence is performed.