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CLIFTON PARK: Confusion, concern surrounds water

Two years after Saratoga County first approached Clifton Park about buying into the county's water plan, confusion surrounds the future of Clifton Park's water supply.

The county water plan, which is the largest public works project in the history of Saratoga, was the main focus of the town board meeting on Monday, May 21.

The plan will draw water from the Hudson River and distribute it to communities throughout the county. Participation by communities in the plan is voluntary.

The county water authority said it already had agreements with the towns of Wilton and Ballston.

The plan is estimated to take between 20 and 24 months to complete and is expected to cost $67 million.

Thirty three million dollars of that cost will come from state grants. The rest of the funding will come from a combination of public and private debt, which will be paid from the sale of water.

The county plan calls for an initial cost of $2.05 per 1,000 gallons of water with a maximum price increase of 1.5 percent per year for the next 10 years. Currently residents pay at least $3.53 per 1,000 gallons, with costs based on gallons used.

Helmut Gerstenberger, chairman of the Clifton Park Water Authority, said this stability was a key component of the county's plan.

As a public water authority, it's very important that we look to long-term negotiated contracts to ensure price stability, said Gerstenberger. "This 10-year price guarantee for us is a critical component to ensure we have that."

Gerstenberger said the town water authority will decide whether or not to adopt the county's plan by the end of the year.

Clifton Park resident Barbara Murphy said she was concerned about the environmental implications of the project.

"Water is like oil; it's the next shortfall," said Murphy. "We're in a crunch -- should we be consuming large quantities of water?"

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