Interestingly, the three options have similar price tags over the long term, between $130 and $140 million through 2023. A lot of that cost has to do with continuing to buy Albany water. Renegotiating to buy more would result in better terms, but still saddle the town with a substantial fixed cost that can't be dialed back should demand decrease.
Rebuilding New Salem would have a substantial up-front cost, since it must be done immediately. But again, if demand for water decreases the town would be left with debt service on a plant it doesn't need.
Under either scenario, rates would increase sharply, potentially driving away economy development.
Town engineers are instead recommending wedding Clapper Road's output to the rest of the water system. It's more expensive to produce water at Clapper Road because it has to be pumped from the source, but expanding its use would not result in more long-term, fixed costs. Come 2023, there would be no additional contractual costs or debt service, something the other two plans can't promise. And if demand falls, the town could simply make less water.
"From my point of view, capital is the most important because it's right here today," said Greg Daviero, of town consultant Malcolm Pirnie. "Once I've spent a dollar today, it's spent."
These factors were discussed at a Town Board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 22. Despite sparking a a public debate years ago, only two members of the public spoke on the issue of water supply during a period reserved for comment. Both spoke about the contract with Albany, including Bob Jazinski, who wondered if the town could sue to get out of the contract.
"We're certainly looking into options with respect to that contract," said Town Attorney James Potter in response.
But the Town Board had more questions for the DPW, including specifics on how they test for the presence of PCBs in the well water.