Yesterday afternoon, the Kingston Water Board had their monthly meeting. Attached is the agenda. Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley was not in attendance, and the discussion as noted on the agenda did not occur (unless it was done in Executive session).
One item for the public to take note of here that was a surprise to us is the “Request for water at 160 Esopus Ave as per Easement”. The parcel is in the Town of Ulster with water rights from the City of Kingston.
(STARTS 7:05 – 19:47 on the Video below. Watch in its entirety).
“In 1884, the Kingston Water Company obtained easements for the “old” 20-inch transmission main from Binnewater to the City line. The easements provided to the owner of the 26 acre parcel in the vicinity of 160 Esopus Ave provides for the owner to have water for farm purposes (although the Kingston Water Department Superintendent Judith Hansen describes this in the video as “loosey goosey”) in perpetuity and at no cost to the owner.
The property owner would like to enter into a lease/purchase agreement with a commercial organic farm operation. The Kingston Water Department has met with the two or three principals of the farm operation and they have expressed an interest in re-activating the water rights associated with the easement.”
Superintendent Hansen has asked for their water use projections.
When a Water Board Commissioner asked “how much water are we talking about here?” Cloonan, the Water Board’s attorney responded “A lot.”
Free water for a 26 acre farm operation in today’s climate?
At this point in time in our area, everyone is aware of the need for revenue from water sales given Kingston’s infrastructure and operational requirements. The owner of the property is local. Might he reconsider the easement and renegotiate the terms with the Kingston Water Board? If not, what other options might there be? A new organic farming business is a great addition to the area, but to not pay for a drop of the water that it uses to then turn a profit from crops seems unfair at best.
Could the Water Department purchase the land in order to resolve the easement? By doing so, it would not only protect our water supply it could also sell the property and create water revenue that the Kingston Water Department needs. If possible, then at this early phase in information gathering, we support the Kingston Water Department to pursue this option (which is also discussed in the video).
Last night, after many terrific citizen public speakers (see 1:44 – 15:35 in the video above), the Common Council did the first reading (at 44:15 – 45:00) of a charter amendment for Water Powers outside of Kingston’s Corporate boundaries.
Alderman-at-Large James Noble explains (at 15:48 – 16:26) stating that “the original resolution has been changed to another resolution. #134 is going to be a local law change, because it’s stronger legislation. This evening we will do the first reading without discussion. Next month, we will do the second reading and vote.”
After which, Mayor Shayne Gallo will have 10 days to organize a public hearing before signing off on the legislation. It would then be prepared and sent to the Board of Election to include on the November ballot.
All summer long, KingstonCitizens.org will focus its energies to inspire and to energize our community to vote like it has never done before. Which way that you do is a private matter – but to vote is a right that was hard earned. If this referendum is placed on the ballot – so was it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears. Please be responsible and do your part and vote. Place November 3rd (Election Day) on your calendar today.
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
First, a referendum would allow the City of Kingston residents to vote on whether or not it should have a voice in water sales outside of our community. Cooper Lake, our reservoir that resides in the Town of Woodstock, is Kingston’s responsibility to manage for its residents and our neighboring communities.
As we learned with the Niagara Bottling proposal, the water department that was organized in 1895 designed to keep politics out of water couldn’t have imagined the politics that would emerge through the interpretation of their original intention. Or climate change. Or water bottling companies. Or fracking. Or any other large extractions of water that would bring great profits to some while potentially decimating the locals ability to grow and to prosper.
Today, we are living in a very different time with the opportunity to reform the way our natural resources are managed. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to municipalities who are also impacted by our decisions and counting on Kingston to be good stewards as we proceed into the future.
Second, throughout the Niagara Bottling proposal, we were told that the City of Kingston hadn’t a seat at the table in the SEQR process because of the Charter. The Town of Ulster, who was hoping to attract Niagara to their community, relied on Kingston’s water in order for them to do so. It took many months of hard work to make the SEQR process a public one and even then, the city of Kingston had no right to be an ‘Involved’ agency.
We will support our Common Council to correct that in November and are pleased to speak more on the subject here all summer long to help the public to make an informed decision.
While we are all at it – the Kingston Water Department needs to do an up-to-date safe yield using climate change modeling. Simply put, a safe or dependable yield projection is the amount that you can safely remove from a reservoir that can be naturally replenished within a certain amount of time. 6.1 million GPD (gallons per day) was what it was over 50 years ago. We are using close to 4.5 million GPD now. It’s a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and time to apply modern strategies to our knowing.
A big thanks to Common Council members Bill Carey, Deb Brown, Matt Dunn, Brad Will, Steve Schabot and Brian Seche for three months of discussion. Your support tonight as a result is greatly appreciated.
Thanks, too, the Kingston’s Corporation Council for their support in helping us find a way to move this referendum through to the next step.
What’s next? This evening’s vote will result in a public referendum in November provided that the full Common Council votes in favor of the amendment in June, and the Mayor signs the legislation.
Please stay tuned and involved. There is more work to do.
CITIZEN ACTION: Attend the Kingston Public Safety/General Government Committee Meeting TUESDAY, MAY 26th at 6:30pm at Kingston City Hall (Conference Room #1) where a Public Referendum will be discussed on Including the Common Council in Municipal Water Sales Outside of Kingston’s City Limits. VIEW FACEBOOK INVITATION and please share.
By Rebecca Martin
In the news now for a couple of months, it has been reported that members of the Common Council led by the Public Safety/General Government Committee that is chaired by Alderman Bill Carey of Ward 5, wish to explore options to include the Common Council in sales of municipal water outside of Kingston’s boundaries.
In this week’s Kingston Times, our own Mayor is called a ‘formidable opponent’ against the work of creating a referendum.
“…the charter change would need approval from State Lawmakers, since they passed the enabling legislation to create the water department. Such approval is unlikely to be granted.” Said Gallo.
He also shares the concerns of the water department’s founders about political interference with a vital resource.
“They may be well-intended,” said Gallo. “But it would do nothing but politicize the issue, which is what the state legislature was trying to avoid when the created a separate system.”
What the Mayor is referring to, is how the Water Department was set up in 1895 to protect the public. 120 years ago – and long before water bottling and other enormous water uses that may or may not benefit the people was in their purview.
We’re not asking that a referendum be placed on the ballot to change the organization of the Water Department/Water Board of Commissioners. We are requesting that a referendum be moved forth that simply includes the Kingston Common Council in sales of the PEOPLE OF KINGSTON’S PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY outside of the City of Kingston. In essence, to allow the residents of Kingston to have a say in how its municipal water is used outside of the community. Reform that would protect the public, in line with adhering to what those long ago intended.
By implementing better checks and balances in this way, that we have all learned are necessary thanks to the Niagara Bottling proposal (a project that wanted to set up in the Town of Ulster using Kingston’s municipal water source from its reservoir located in the Town of Woodstock to bottle and to sell in the NE), the public would have an important seat at the table.
As to politicizing the issue, do some of our elected officials not trust the public to choose what is right for their community? We don’t agree with the Mayor’s take here. His opinion is but one, and although it is important, it should not trump all else. Lets get the language right, and let the people decide. That is democratic.
It is disingenuous for the Mayor to suggest that the process isn’t already political. What about appointees to the Water Board of Commissioners? Did you know that the Mayor has the sole discretion to appoint members without any oversight? Not only could the Mayor’s appointments be considered political, without full fair and open discussions about the appointments with the public, the lack of transparency and direct Democratic accountability could also be viewed as unethical.
Please see the Niagara Bottling TIMELINE for a refresher on exactly how politics in this case were used to work against the public good in our opinion. Thankfully, we learned our rights and implemented them. We will do the very same thing in this case.
You can also view a video from early in the Niagara effort where the Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley gives an Oscar winning performance. (No politics at work here)
On Tuesday, May 26th at 7:00pm (Kingston City Hall, Conference Room #1) the Public Safety/General Government Committee will meet to discuss such a referendum. Members of the council have requested our Corporation Council to be prepared with information on the steps the Council must take.
This is another one of those moments where we are asking the public to attend and witness. Committee meetings do not have a public comment period like the council meeting does. Your presence next Tuesday will be meaningful in support of our council members as they work to move the referendum out of committee and on to the next step.
During the Niagara Bottling proposal, Kingston citizens and the Kingston Common Council came up close and personal to a glaring problem that it had not ever contemplated.
The Town of Ulster, a neighboring municipality, wanted to bring a national bottling company to set up shop in Ulster using Start-Up NY tax abatements (and at least one other grant source) to bottle and to sell municipal water that, ironically, was not theirs.
Cooper Lake – the water body in the midst of the debate – is a reservoir owned by the City of Kingston located in the Town of Woodstock. The proposal didn’t just involve the forementioned, but a hand full of other municipalities due to proposed wastewater discharges from the site into the Esopus Creek.
As for Kingston, outside of the Kingston Water Department (KWD), the residents (whose water and infrastructure it was) were not an ‘Involved’ agency in the SEQR process due to the KWD being independent and the charter being worded as it currently is. It took months of hard work to simply be included as ‘Interested’ agency which in the end, gave us all little to no say at all (particularly in determining ‘Lead Agency’ where you must be ‘Involved’ to be included in making that decision). A tremendous effort ensued, and the public prevailed.
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.” (that today is the DEC). What may be proposed in a referendum are to include four simple words to this section: “and the common council.” That right there, would give the public a say as to its water supply outside of Kingston’s city limits. Additionally, Kingston would be an “Involved” agency in SEQR in the case one were triggered. In the meantime, the public’s water would have a layer of protection that would allow for thoughtful policy to be developed over time for sustainable growth and economic development using this precious public resource.
VIEW our event page to stay informed on the upcoming Water Referendum.
On November 26th, 2014, KingstonCitizens.org FOILED the Empire State Development office requesting a copy of Niagara Bottling’s Consolidated Funding Application for review. Month after month, we were contacted and told that the request was being worked on and that we would receive it shortly.
According to NYS Committee on Open Government, it states that “when an agency receives a request, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) states that it has five business days to grant or deny access in whole or in part, or if more time is needed, to acknowledge the receipt of the request in writing and indicate an approximate date by which the agency will respond to the request, usually not more than 20 additional business days.“
The Empire State Development website however vaguely lists exclusions including grants it appears. Perhaps the language provides a loop hole in this case.
At any rate, we finally received the application on April 2nd, 2015. In their letter, they relayed that “Pursuant to section 87, subsection 2, subdivision (d) of FOIL, we have redacted portions of the Consolidated Funding Application that “are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise.”
In other words, all of the potential jobs and their salaries promised to the Town of Ulster site were blackened out. To this day, we still can’t get information on what those positions and salaries were to be as you can see in the application.
In addition, we requested the minutes of all meetings of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council at which the Niagara Bottling proposal was discussed.
They wrote that “pursuant to section 87, subsection2, subdivision (g) FOIL, we are withholding the non-public meeting minutes of the Mid-Hudson Regional Development Counsel that discussed Niagara Bottling’s proposal as they are “inter-agency or intra agency materials which are not (i) statistical or factual tabulations or date; (ii) instructions to staff that affect the public; (iii) final agency policy or determination; (iv) external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller of the federal government.”
Perhaps it is truly in their purview not to share the information that we requested. Hard to know. You’d need to a lawyer to confirm that.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to request full transparency when allocating public funding, but apparently it is. In the end, following the process as we have all along the way, we hope to shed some light and even improve how future funding is allocated.
At a recent Public Safety/General Government committee meeting, Ward 5 Alderman and chair of the committee Bill Carey introduced a resolution to amend the City Charter. But City of Kingston Assistant Corporation Council Dan Gartenstein told the Committee that “they could not make the change through a resolution. He said the state’s Municipal Home Rule Law would require a public referendum be held because the council essentially would be expanding its powers.” Currently, the only public official who has any authority in the matter is the mayor, who sits on the city’s Board of Water Commissioners.
What we have learned over the past decade is that Government is more efficient when proper checks and balances are in place. In Kingston, one of the hardships of the Niagara Bottling project was the council not having a voice in the sale of an enormous amount of the community’s municipal water, leaving many questions in the way of science and modeling, climate change, safe yields, economic development and other critical aspects nearly impossible to challenge.
The Public Safety/General Government Committee was looking to explore an avenue that would include the Common Council in future certain sales of water. Given the time it would take to update the charter in its entirety (which we would advocate for) a simple amendment as we understand it would give the council – and in turn the citizens – a seat at the table as Involvedfor any large sales of water outside the City of Kingston.
“C: Such sale or sales must be approved by the New York State Water Power and Control Commission (today is known as the DEC) and the Common Council.”
2. We found that based on Section 23 of the Municipal Home Rule Law (that list local laws requiring referendum) that it doesn’t appear that a local law passed by the Common Council to amend the Charter to provide for some form of Council approval of certain sales of water would be subject to a mandatory referendum. Section 23 of the Municipal Home Rule Law has the list of local laws requiring referendum, and we didn’t find anything close.
3. If this is correct, the Public Safety/General Government Committee could request that the Council adopt a local law that would amend the section. Once moved out of Committee, the Council would read the amended local law at their next meeting and vote the following month, giving the public 30 days in between for a chance to weigh in.
Having reached out to residents who are experts in the field of historic preservation, please note the following:
Attached find two reports prepared by an ACRA-Accredited archaeologist for the NYS DOT in 2002, and two current real estate market estimates. There is some discrepancy of physical address between tax roll, Ulster GIS, and the reports, but none regarding the historical significance of both properties – constructed ca. 1810-1830. Note on page two of each report that the subject property “meets eligibility criteria” for inclusion on both State and National Historic Registers, and that each “embodies the distinct characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction; or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.”
These two structures should be saved – along with others that we will be asked to appropriate funds for destruction. They are two hundred year old structuresthat speak to Kingston’s history – they should and can be preserved. Properties should be re-marketed to eligible buyers (individuals or organizations) for reasonable asking prices that facilitate and encourage their preservation. Clear and attractive identifying signage should be placed at the properties that state they are City-owned and for sale. Absent these steps, Kingston risks losing much credibility of the marketing message stating that “Historic Is Just Our Beginning.”
Equally important will be the City developing comprehensive and public-accessible criteria to evaluate not only the structural integrity – but also the historic value and status – of any property that is being considered for demolition. This means the City has to do its homework with SHPO, DOT, the County, Heritage Area Commission, Friends of Historic Kingston, and any other entity that may offer valuable information regarding a given property’s status.
Brad Will Alderman, City of Kingston
FROM THE CITY OF KINGSTON TOURISM WEB PAGE:
“The City of Kingston is nestled in the heart of Ulster County, New York. It is 91 miles north of New York City and 59 miles south of Albany. Kingston was New York’s first capital in 1777, and was burned by the British on October 16, 1777, after the Battles of Saratoga. In the 19th century, the city became an important transport hub after the discovery of natural cement in the region, and had both railroad and canal connections. Passenger rail service has since ceased, and many of the older buildings are part of three historic districts, such as the Uptown Stockade District, the Midtown Neighborhood Broadway Corridor, and the Downtown Rondout-West Strand Historic District.”
UPSTATER ARTICLE, EXCERPT – DECEMBER 8, 2014:
Historic is Just Our Beginning – But We’re Not Just Getting Started
“Here in Kingston we say, “Historic is just our beginning,” but when it comes to historic preservation, we aren’t just getting started. We know that when people are looking to move to a city like Kingston, back to a place where population has declined over the years as factories closed or the shift took place toward the suburbs, they look for historic areas first.
Lately, and historically in fact, Kingston Government has had a conflict with department behavior and the public’s expectation. Without clear policy in place, we rely on common sense behavior – and that can be quite subjective when things go astray.
About 6 years ago in the City of Kingston, a city employee filed a sexual harassment suit against the supervisor and a few other employees at the DPW. Their behavior that was widely publicized was despicable. To add insult to injury, the public learned that the COK didn’t have a Sexual Harassment policy in place, creating more concern. The cost of which felt by city taxpayers. Could the whole thing have been avoided?
Today, we are reading about city workers using their social media accounts in inappropriate ways in the headlines where policy is in place but clearly not adhered to. Conflicts of Interests are more common than not even though Ethics and all that it embodies are written into code.
With only a little bit of research, when we enter in ‘small city municipal policies’ what comes up is the different forms of government that include City Manager. No surprise. 1/3rd of small cities like ours have changed to incorporate it.
But given Kingston’s affinity to ‘strong mayor’ form of government (which is really new. Only 20+ years old) and which can and that we feel should be challenged and potentially changed (to city manager form of government), what we are searching for is what a municipality of our size and given our form of government generally does in the way of policy.
On first glance, Section 3: Village Operations: “Chapter 13: The importance of written policies and procedures” they state that “If your municipality is small or if it operates under a relatively close-knit management (which ours does), policies may be ‘understood’…..relying on ‘understood’ policies, however, may lead to misunderstandings.”
To us, city policies matter. Could the city of Kingston create a policy manual? According to our initial reading here, and elsewhere a policy manual would be most helpful, as a ‘well written, up-to-date policy manual guides managers and supervisors in making decisions, training and handling employment issues that relate to safety and health. A policy manual also offers other less obvious benefits such as: 1) A basic communication tool; 2) An excellent training resource. 3) A written documentation. 4) Saves time and manages complex operations. 5) Gives employees a right to know’
City Government’s role is infrastructure which is broad. It includes water and sewer pipes, roadways, signage, communication, contracts and all else that makes those living and doing business in Kingston easy. And that’s really it. I see Kingston government treading on the historic, the arts and other places one might say they haven’t any business and takes away from what it is meant to do.
There is no lack of important details that need attention in Kingston’s City Government. It may be a big effort initially, but it will make things run smoothly and more efficiently in the long run.
Great speeches last night. We appreciate the hard work of our common council.
Now you can watch at your leisure. Thanks to Kingston News for making this possible and available.
Majority Leader Matt Dunn (Democrat) “We will give the City of Kingston a voice for the potential sale of our water outside of the City limits.” (20:30 – 21:42)
Minority Leader Deb Brown (Republican) “(Washington Avenue Sinkhole) We are doing our due diligence and making sure all aspects of this major undertaking is done in the proper sequence. This is not a problem that happened overnight…to coordinate this project with the consultants, funding, grants, government entities, the bidding process, construction companies, easements, regulations, mother nature and unexpected failures is a major undertaking. We all want it to be done right the first time, not having to be looking over our shoulder going into the next decade. We are an old city with old infrastructures.” (1:00 – 3:40)
As a final follow-up of the work, we are pleased to share a timeline of the recent Niagara Bottling Proposal in our area. For a good solid month, we have worked to encompass each event of significance to not only document, but to also help to further illustrate how incredibly complicated this was. The people working together with the help of many partners managed to stay on top of every detail and utilize their rights based on policy and the law (there is much room for improvement, too, as we found out in both departments).
What can we learn here to improve decision making processes in the future? A great deal – and we must never forget it and apply these important lessons to everything from here on out.
If there is an item that has not been recorded that you wish to share, please contact us.
It is our aim to also offer assistance and support to other communities who are in the midst of something similar. Please be in touch if you’d like by writing Rebecca@KingstonCitizens.org
Special thanks to KingstonCitizens.org’s committee members Debra Bresnan and Rachel Marco-Havens for their assistance.
Here are several key items:
An enormous amount of public funding was lined up to attract the Niagara Bottling project. It is hard to say what the tax abatements through Start-Up NY would have provided along with all the tax breaks that a Manufacturer is given in NYS – but over the course of 10 years it’s probably a fair assumption that it would have been upwards to $20-30 million +. That, plus the $10.8 million they would have received through the Consolidated Funding Application grant through the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council (MHEDC) to go toward their facility build (an estimate $53 million for a new build, and not to reuse any of the buildings at the Tech City site).
A firm number of jobs and salaries were not ever provided to our group so that a cost analysis could be done to compare their worth vs. the amount of public funding that Niagara was looking to secure. Very few elected and appointed officials involved knew what they were, but had signed confidentiality agreements and would not release that information to the public.
STATE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY REVIEW ACT (SEQRA): Pos vs. Neg Dec
The public was encouraged to wait for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process to take place in order to get the basic information that they were requesting. Those who understood what was taking place worked hard to secure a ‘positive declaration’ in SEQRA in order for there to be a public process and thankfully were successful in doing so. It had been reported in the papers that Niagara was hoping to start their build in February of 2015 alluding to the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency probably counting on a ‘negative declaration’ – meaning no public input – sending the project straight to the planning board for a site plan review.
SEQRA, by the way and simply put, examines a project as it is submitted and relies on such submission to be accurate (and not segmented as this proposal clearly was). Determinations are then based on its accuracy for a proper review of the applicable laws.
PUBLIC FUNDING AND SEQRA
As it turns out and in this case, it is illegal in NYS for public funds to be awarded to a project before SEQRA takes place. Prior to the public’s awareness, the Niagara project had been selected as a priority project for the MHEDC. Whether shining the light on this fact impacted Niagara ultimately not being selected by the State in December is unknown. Though we suspect so.
START UP NY TAX ABATEMENTS
Start-Up NY is a new program of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s that began in January/February of 2014. Corporations who come in from out of state and partner with a SUNY school may qualify for up to 10 years of tax abatements (tax free including employee, business, property, school and others). It is meant for corporations to move on campus to offer onsite internships for students but in SUNY Ulster’s case (located in Stone Ridge, NY), that wasn’t possible due to program allotment of 200,000 square feet to accommodate businesses under consideration. By utilizing their satellite campus’s however, Tech City located in the Town of Ulster where Niagara wished to locate (and for the most part empty since the early 90’s) could qualify.
Niagara Bottling applied and was selected by a very small number of people (four as we understand it) based on these qualifications as we know them: 1) Will the corporation provide jobs? 2) Does the corporation fit within the mission of the program/University? 3) Does the corporation conflict with any other business similar in nature within a certain radius of the potential new location?
…and that’s it.
The SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees (who have a fiduciary responsibility), students and faculty were not included in the decision making process. Furthermore, Niagara would require water from a municipal source (as well as local springs) that could have tremendous negative impacts to the community that the reservoir services (Kingston/Woodstock). The community-at-large were caught off guard, having not been alerted prior to reports in the papers with the process well underway.
LACK OF GOOD SCIENCE
Thanks to several of our partners (and their donors) that include the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and SaveCooperLake.org, a number of studies were created to show the potential impacts of the water withdrawal, creation of plastic bottles using PET pellets, traffic and waste water disposal in a nearby impaired water-way known as the Esopus Creek. As you will see by reading through the timeline, there was little to none modeling to gauge future impacts. These studies helped us to show the potential dangers to our communities prior to SEQRA and in turn, helped us to secure a positive declaration in the process.
INTERESTED VS. INVOLVED AGENCY
In the SEQRA process, those who have a “discretionary decision” to make have a seat at the table and are listed as an ‘Involved Agency’. In Kingston, because the Water Board is independent – they alone would make the decision regarding the sale of the public’s water (and they alone were listed as an Involved Agency). All together, about nine people without any public oversight (unless you include the Mayor as the public, the only elected official who serves on the Water Board and who appoints all of its members, too).
All of the municipalities impacted directly that include Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties fought another hard battle to be listed as an ‘Involved’ agency prior to not being listed at all. To be ‘Involved’ gives the group the opportunity to voice in on Lead Agency in SEQR. That is a critical moment in the process and much effort, too, was made to request that the DEC become Lead Agency of the project given its regional impacts.
Instead, each were granted only ‘Interested’ agency status, which in essence is not any more authority in the process than the average citizen.
That, right there, is a real glaring problem for our community and we intend to work with our elected officials in the future to help to provide the public with a larger role in decision making for sales such as these.
A LONGER PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD AND ADDITIONAL PUBLIC HEARING LOCATIONS IN SEQR
Another item that was important to our group given the complexity of the project was to request a longer public comment period than what is allowed in SEQR (which is 30 days once the scoping document is submitted by the client/consultant (Niagara/Chazen Companies)). Because it is not mandatory to allow for more time, the public was beholden to the Lead Agency/Client to allow for it or not.
In addition, given that the impacts of the projects would have included multiple municipalities, we also asked that Lead Agency offer public hearings outside of the Town of Ulster and in those impacted communities so to increase the number of the public and their opportunity to be heard.
We hope that you will visit this page periodically as we continue to fine tune and add any additional information that is helpful to understand better our experience.
To try to keep the timeline tight, we’re including these other entries here to get a little more insight on the City of Kingston’s Water Board and other municipal decisions that have been made over the past 100 + years.
If you have anything that you wish to correct or to add – or you are a community facing a similar situation and would like to speak to us – you can do so by contacting us at Rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org
2011: As a condition of the NYS DEC permit for Woodstock Commons to hook up to the Town of Woodstock (ToW) Water District, the ToW was required to develop and submit emergency back-up water treatment and supply plans to NYS DEC using Cooper Lake main on Tinker Street at site of the Town Hall renovation.
“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.”