Here is another article about things going on around Rochester.
After a particularly harsh winter, New York State and several local governments are scrambling to find solutions for repairing the damaged water systems strung out across the state.
Lohud.com reports that the water systems of Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, and several other cities and boroughs were severely damaged over the winter. Some cities saw more than a hundred water mains and service lines freeze or break during the winter, which, with its incessant below-zero temperatures and heavy snow, broke several state records, including having the second-coldest February ever recorded.
Combined with the old age of many of these systems (generally, pipes more than 40 years old are prone to damage), local governments are struggling to repair them in time.
Rochester alone had 136 mains break in January, which according to the Monroe County Water Authority is the most it has ever seen in one month in at least a decade.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said in a budget meeting in February that her city had an average of one main break per day for the past 10 years with average repair costs of approximately $150,000. She also noted that the costs didn’t even include the price of the road restoration work necessary for water pipe jobs.
As a result, the state’s $142 billion budget approved on April 1 allots $200 million for water system repair work by local governments. Each municipality can apply for upwards of $5 million in grant money for repairing or replacing sewage systems and water infrastructures. The budget stipulates that the state funds can cover no more than 60% of the total cost. However, unlike most water system funding from Albany, the recipients do not have to pay it back.
“Municipalities don’t apply [for the loans] because they can’t really afford to go into debt for these projects, so they defer them as long as they can,” said Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye). “Our view is we needed to create a grant program and make these projects fly out the door.”
In order to dole out the grants effectively, the state’s Environmental Facilities Corp., the agency that already regulates state loans for water infrastructure projects, will oversee the program. Local governments will be able to apply for the grants for up to three years.
The money comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s criticism of upstate New York’s handling of infrastructure work. For months, the governor put the onus of repairing the systems on the local governments. In March, Cuomo caused controversy by criticizing upstate’s economic initiatives, calling them unworthy of state funds.
“Show us how you become economically stronger and create jobs. Then you fix your own pipes,” Cuomo told reporters in Syracuse. “The state can’t subsidize endlessly local governments that can’t pay their own bills. That would just bring down the state also.”
Instead, Cuomo is encouraging upstate to improve its economy by focusing on job development, which he feels will produce enough revenue for the local governments to fund the repairs themselves.
“I want to see cities getting stronger and counties getting stronger so they are self sustaining. How do you do that? You create jobs,” he said.
Some upstate leaders, however, see things differently.
“A key component of infrastructure is the delivery of clean water. This is a fundamental service of local government and is a key building block to economic and community development,” Miner said in a statement.
“These funds will make essential quality of life investments in the city’s many neighborhoods,” said Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D-Irondequoit). Morelle, who represents parts of Rochester, recently managed to secure $21 million in the state’s budget for Rochester infrastructure projects.