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.”
This year, the theme for World Water Day is “Water and Sustainable Development.” It’s about how water links to all areas we need to consider to create the future we want. March 22nd is a day to celebrate water and to map a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It’s a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future.
Guest speakers include water advocates and a special presentation of youth and prayers and tradition dance and song from local Native American communities.
The event will also showcase world renowned jazz musicians Jack DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier – both local to the Hudson Valley region.
In a career that spans five decades and includes collaborations with some of the most iconic figures in modern jazz, NEA and Grammy winner Jack DeJohnette has established an unchallenged reputation as one of the greatest drummers in the history of the genre. Th list of creative associations throughout his career is lengthy and diverse; John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, Chet Baker, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Joe Henderson, Freddy Hubbard, Betty Carter and so many more. Along the way, he has developed a versatility that allows rom for hard bop, R&B, World Music, Avant-Garde and just about every other style to emerge in the past half-century.
As one of contemporary jazz’s most respected and accomplished bassists, Larry Grenadier has built an expansive body of work that encompasses a variety of significant projects with many of the genre’s most inventive and influential musicians. Over the course of a performing and recording career that spans three decades, he’s earned a far-reaching reputation, for his instrumental talent, for his instantly recognizable tone, and for his sensitivity, imagination and creative curiosity that have established him as an in-demand sideman and valued collaborator. Grenadier’s trademark upright bass work has been a longstanding fixture in the bands of pianist Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny, and has graced albums and groups by a broad array of prestigious artists including Paul Motian, Charles Lloyd, Enrico Rava, Danilo Perez, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman and Kurt Rosenwinkel. He’s also found time to make three albums with his acclaimed trio Fly and to record five more with his wife, noted singer/songwriter and founder of KingstonCitizens.org Rebecca Martin.
The event is free to all, though a $10.00 recommended cover will be accepted at the door. Proceeds after expenses will be used to support a new KingstonCitizens.org mentorship program that provides opportunities for young and old to participate in regular city government meetings.
The film “TAPPED” will be screened at Kingston Candy Bar next door to BSP from 5-8pm. Visit and have your water bottle filled with filtered tap water!
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.
KingstonCitizens.org creates timeline of the withdrawn Niagara Bottling Company proposal. The group has created a survey to capture the impressions of their partners and citizens to make a historical document.
Kingston, NY – KingstonCitizens.org is working on a timeline about the Niagara Bottling Project and wants to hear from the public.
On February 13, 2015, Niagara withdrew its plans to occupy the proposed site in the Town of Ulster. The proposed project would have included the purchase of 1.75 million gallons of water from the Kingston Water Department from our reservoir (Cooper Lake) located in the Town of Woodstock.
The group wishes to document citizens’ impressions of the events that occurred over the past six months. The group is working to create a historical document noting each critical event that can also offer insight, information and inspiration to other communities facing similar concerns that this proposal has brought to light.
TAKE THE SURVEY or visit www.KingstonCitizens.org for more information. Survey responses are due Monday, March 2, 2015.
For questions or more information, contact Debra Bresnan at email@example.com
Over the past five months many groups have worked tirelessly across communities and political boundaries to collect important information regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling project. It has always been our aim to encourage a more open process which is critical when decisions are being made about how our public water resources will be managed, used and potentially sold.
As we shift gears and look forward to what’s next, we fully expect to continue to use our new capacity to advance the public good. There is a lot to do on the subject of water that has been brought to light by this proposal, and it is our goal to help protect this resource and its infrastructure so that it will remain in the hands of the people forever.
Thank you to Food and Water Watch, SaveCooperLake.org, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NYPIRG, The Wittenberg Center, Mid-Hudson Sierra Club, Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council, Clark Richters and Kingston News, SUNY Ulster Environmental Club, Scenic Hudson, Sustainable Saugerties, Slow Food Hudson Valley, Town of Woodstock, Town of Red Hook, City of Kingston Common Council and Conservation Advisory Council, Kingston Transition, Woodstock NY Transition and all of the local businesses who helped to get the word out and host public educational events.
But most of all – thanks to you. The citizens. It is because of you that the outcry for water protection has resulted in a huge win for our communities, the region and the State of New York and a huge opportunity to plan for wise protection, stewardship and management of our critical watersheds and public water supplies as we face the challenges of climate change.
On October 15th 2014, the national organization FOOD AND WATER WATCH submitted a FOIL request (New York’s Freedom of Information Law, Public Officers Law 87 et. seq) to Kingston’s Water Department to release “all records and documented communications, including direct written correspondance and emails, between Niagara Bottling Company and/or its representatives and the Board of Water Commissioners. In their letter, the same request was made of Mayor Shayne Gallo including any correspondence and emails between the Town of Ulster and Mayor of Kingston regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal.” There is that and more. Please read the attached.
“When an agency receives a FOIL request…the law 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”SEE EXPLANATION OF TIME LIMITS FOR RESPONDING TO A REQUEST.
Almost four months later and we still have not received anything. Are they hiding something?
You can call Kingston Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen and request that she release the requested documents immediately:
Contact Mayor Shayne Gallo, too, to alert him of the lack of response by the Water Department to the initial and ongoing FOIL request: (845) 334-3902
Citizens in our community have said that they would enjoy hosting a ‘break-out group’ to read and discuss sections of the Comprehensive Plan of interest at their homes with friends. It’s a great way to become more intimately involved with the text and to prepare comments with the support of your community.
To help you to be successful, KingstonCitizens.org reached out to those in the City of Kingston who have been intimately involved with the Comprehensive Plan and that are experts in their field.
You are encouraged to be in touch with any of those listed below. They might even be available to help guide your event in their specific area of expertise if schedules can come together. We will continue to add any additional resources as we secure them.
We hope that Kingston citizens will follow through on this really good opportunity so to be better equipt to provide comments that will help make the current document an even better one.
Kristen says: “The Complete Streets Advisory Council is seeking new members. If you are interested, you can find more information HERE. You may download an application HERE.”
2. Tim Weidemann, Transportation and Mobility (Page 38) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim is principal of Rondout Consulting and provides administrative support to the Kingston Land Trust. He is also co-chair of its Rail Trail Committee.
3. Kitty McCullough, Historic Resources (Page 48) and Economic Development (Page 29).
Contact: email@example.com Kitty is a Development Consultant helping nonprofit and others pull strategic priorities from a “mountain of challenges to’ tool up’ to stability and sustainability.”
4. George Donskoj, Historic Resources (Page 48).
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org George is the Chairman of Kingston’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission in Kingston.
5. Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Historic Resources (Page 48), Open Space Resources (26), Urban Agriculture. Contact: email@example.com Jennifer is an urban planner and principal at HONE STRATEGIC in Kingston, NY.
I received an ARTICLE from a Syracuse paper that’s been forwarded around locally this week where Governor Cuomo was reported to say to Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner that the State has “no plans to send millions of dollars to Syracuse or other upstate cities to fix leaky aging water systems” among other things that were not so pleasant.
Given that one of those responsible for sharing the article was Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley – who appears to believe that there isn’t any other possible alternative to our water infrastructure woes other than to privatize them by handing over a portion of the repair work to a company like Niagara Bottling – I had to investigate.
Upon a little research, I have learned that Syracuse Mayor Miner and Governor Cuomo have a longstanding strained relationship. Minor was once appointed to the State’s Democratic Party as a co-chair by Cuomo in May of 2012 only to resign shortly after in April of 2014. “The relationship between Cuomo and Miner has been strained at times, with the two butting heads on several issues including State aid to cities. Minor also authored an article in the New York Times (on February 13th, 2013) criticizing Cuomo’s proposal to let municipalities borrow money to off-set pension costs.”
Also of note, is that their relationship goes way back as Miner having worked for Cuomo’s father when he was Governor.
Why is this important?
The Daily Freeman did a piece on the article recently. When asked my reaction to it, my first response was to say that the public should better understand the context in what they were reading. Cuomo’s reported quotes seemed specific to the Mayor and Syracuse. Was there a conflict between the two elected officials or was this really a statement on policy regarding state funding for water infrastructure in communities like ours?
My initial observation appeared to be correct from what I learned about Governor Cuomo and Mayor Minor. There was more to this then what met the eye.
My choice of action? To place aside what appears to be a bullying attempt by the local proponents of the Niagara Bottling proposal – which is of no use to the public – and instead, continue my efforts to become better educated on the needs and solutions in Kingston and our region.
Here are three suggestions worth time and consideration in Kingston.
1. The City of Kingston’s Water Department creates Capitol Improvement Plans (CIP) of only 4-5 years in length.
Those in favor of the Niagara Bottling proposal are hoping that they might be able to save us when Niagara PAYS ONLY SOME of a five year capitol improvement plan that totals an approximate $18 million dollars of Kingston’s water infrastructure costs (a jump of $2 million dollars since September of 2014).
What about long term planning? What exactly are we looking at here – and is there a 10, 20, 30 year plan (or whatever is the professional standard to have a long view) that allows us to look at our water infrastructure needs as an entire system? It seems only logical that we would need a long range plan so that we can not only bite off small pieces along the way, but to also be in line for any future local, state and federal funding that becomes available.
After potentially selling 25% of our water resources to Niagara Bottling, what are we planning to sell to keep water prices low for users yet cover future infrastructure costs? It appears to me that our elected and appointed officials are placing us in the precarious position to turn to privatization and that’s not acceptable.
2. Conservation pricing. The Kingston Water Department does the opposite and charges users more who use less and less who use more.
Kingston’s current water rates are organized using an antiquated model by charging those who use the least the most and those who use the most the least. In this day and age, where water is scarce in many parts of the country, we should be applying something called ‘Conservation Pricing’ here at home. Not only are we encouraging users to not conserve today, we are also most probably missing out on large revenues over time that could be used to fix ailing water infrastructure.
People like throwing around that we are ‘water rich’ in NYS. But that doesn’t mean that we will always be, or that the 1% of water (which is the percentage that we can actually drink worldwide) will always be clean for us here.
When you have ample amounts of anything, you should not only be saving it but also mindful in setting a good example for our young community leaders who will one day be running our city to be thinking in these terms.
There is so much good reading out there on Conservation Water Pricing and I encourage you to do a little research to read up on it. We can do a longer piece on that at another time, too, if that would be helpful.
READ: EPA Water Sustainable Infrastructure Pricing Structures READ: Conservation Pricing for Residential Water Supply (Florida)
3. Make the Water Department a part of City Government.
In 1895 when the Kingston Water Department was created it was made independent to keep politics out of water.
When the Kingston Water Board of Commissioners feels as though they have the exclusive right to sell our water and infrastructure to a company like Niagara Bottling – paid for by users and the public for over 100 years – how does that serve the publics interest today or for the future?
Additionally, our Mayor has the sole discretion to appoint members to the Water Board Commission. If the potential for politics doesn’t exist there, I don’t know what does. Furthermore, our council has the authority to approve any water infrastructure improvements needed. Once more, the potential for politics.
In the Kingston City Charter, Water Commissioner terms are five years in length and it looks to be at a maximum. We haven’t been able to find any information in the Charter or in Water Department By-Laws (which apparently don’t exist) that allow for an extension of that five years and yet, the chair of the Water Board of Commissioners has served since 1981. Furthermore, there isn’t a Water board Commissioner that has served for less then one term already.
What KingstonCitizens.org is going to explore this spring are steps to create a referendum in November 2015 that would bring an opportunity for the public to vote on whether or not it wants to keep the Water Department independent.
If we have nothing really to gain for our Water Department to be independent outside of a decision to keep politics out of water from 135 year ago – long before there was bottled water companies and discussions to privatize water infrastructure – then we suggest it’s time for a change.
Insist on better municipal water management and a comprehensive study of Kingston’s water infrastructure needs. Don’t turn over 100 + years of a public investment over to private interests. We insist on finding creativesolutions to solve decades of deferred maintenance.
KingstonCitizens.org would like to express its gratitude to the Kingston Common Council for passing a resolution this evening that will be sent to the Town of Ulster Town Board as Lead Agency in the Niagara Bottling SEQR Process ASAP:
1) For the Town of Ulster Town Board as Lead Agency to provide 80 days from the delivery of the Scoping Document to the Town of Ulster from Niagara Bottling’s consultant the Chazen Companies for public input during the public portion of the Scoping Document.
2) Because the proposed project is complex and multi-faceted in nature and has the potential to impact multiple communities and environmental resources, the City of Kingston as both an Interested and Involved Agency requests that the Town of Ulster Town Board as Lead Agency host a public hearing on the Scoping Document at Kingston City Hall in the City of Kingston in collaboration with Kingston’s Common Council towards the end of Public Scoping.
A motion was made by Ward 5 Alderman Bill Carey. It was seconded by Ward 9 Alderwoman Deb Brown and passed 8 – 1. The decision was made in caucus this evening, where Brian Seche who was the one ‘no’ vote was not in attendance.
Other interested and involved agencies can do the same. Protect the interests of your public and support their request.
READ: 3 Kingston lawmakers join effort to block tax breaks for Niagara Bottling; council calls for 80-day comment period
Recently, we acquired the appointments of the current Water Board of Commissioners and learned that one of their terms expires on May 31st, 2015.
Commissioner Al Radel who has served since 2000. A total of 15 years. We would personally like to thank him for his time on the Water Board.
The Mayor appoints members to the commission, and we recommend that the city do a good search well in advance to find a new professional for the Water Board. Environmentalists, Hydrologists, Engineers, Economics. New blood.
Any city resident can apply. To learn more, please contact Mayor Shayne Gallo at firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.