Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Economic Eyepoke

Waiting for your economic stimulus check? Me too. Though it won’t likely go too far or give any real lasting relief from the multitude of factors pressing down on all of us, I suppose it’s better than nothing. I just passed the gas station where a gallon was up to $3.75. It’s only going to get worse unfortunately.

The Fed cut interest rates again today by ¼% for whatever that’ll be worth. Inflation is rearing its head in an ugly manner on all fronts though. The government continues to say we’re not in a recession. I’m pretty sure I’m in one.


It is important to note that the next Rotterdam Town Board meeting on May 14th will be held at the Rotterdam Junction firehouse. I’ll bet almost anything there will be discussion of some sort regarding the long-overdue water tower on the agenda. I’m guessing it will involve the results of whatever study was done to eventually site the new tower on SI Group property. Look for a promise that the tower will be built “this year,” but don’t hold your breath that it actually happens.

The other interesting news to note is GE’s reported intention to locate a wind turbine on their property. As you’re already aware, approval for a wind test tower was given recently in Pattersonville. Neither of these developments is necessarily problematic but each will need close scrutiny to ensure QOL is not compromised in the process. Wind turbines have proven controversial elsewhere and the Town of Rotterdam needs to rapidly develop and implement appropriate guiding regulations. The Town seems to be constantly several steps behind where they need to be on important planning matters. Once again, I submit the need for a moratorium has never been more compelling.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More Moratoriums

I noticed in the Spotlight News that yet another local moratorium is being considered. This time in the Town of New Scotland. Like the discussion in Niskayuna, it’s intended to ensure the Comprehensive Plan addresses the relevant impact of large projects. Are you paying attention Town of Rotterdam?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


What a beautiful day today turned out to be. I’m surprisingly filled with happiness in the midst of a storm. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by such a loving family that helped to celebrate another milestone and remind me of the blessings in my life that make it worth living.

Things I Left Alone

I’d like to touch on a few other aspects to the sewer district extension that I didn’t comment on last night.

We have been trying to secure drainage relief and road repair in this latest effort since October 2004 when NAG was founded. We’ve endured many setbacks, unfulfilled promises, and numerous studies along the way. We’ve been patient though, even when confronted with the permutation that included this sewer district extension.

I don’t understand how the Town isn’t prepared to bid the construction costs after so much elapsed time. The sewers were supposed to be an added consideration, not an impediment to proceeding. Now the referendum won’t take place until June 10th and no matter if sewers pass or fail, there will be no progress for at least 6 months optimistically. That means we miss yet another construction season. I’m beyond words to express my disappointment and frustration at that turn of events.

I purposely avoided drainage comment as much as possible last night since the hearing was focused on the sewer aspect. But one interesting point that needs to be explored is what the additional $40,000 paid to study a proposed land acquisition for drainage paths got us beyond further delay last year. No mention has been made about it and all of a sudden we need another 6 months minimum to rework costs? I suspect the land deal is somehow contingent on the Town getting the sewer district extended first.

Let’s assume for a moment that sewers are approved by residents. That’s fine with me ultimately despite my cost objections. I’m a financial guy who knows how to navigate those waters to my own personal satisfaction. The problem is that we still can’t do the project this season. Costs will increase again and now the approval impact could be much different financially for many. More importantly, approval of sewers will now inextricably link us to the Helderberg Meadows project schedule. With the real estate market what it is currently, what happens to our project if Helderberg Meadows progress slows or stops altogether? In addition, ACOE still needs to sign off on permits for Helderberg Meadows and the anticipation of getting that approval soon is pure speculation. That comment period dates back to early 2005 and I’ve been calling them periodically ever since for status.

Many other salient points were raised by my neighbors. For instance, where is the Highway Superintendent input? He’s an elected official that doesn’t seem to feel a need to participate directly in this discussion. What is the accuracy of the estimates? Already estimates have risen substantially three times over the last year. Additionally, some residents have indicated they will not need a grinder pump according to the engineer but when they explored connection costs on their own discovered that indeed they would need one because their lateral would meet the gravity pipe street connection too low. To imply that connection costs will be typical is misleading because the way the homes were built will require a costly retrofit to connect.

We considered the sewer proposal in good faith because it made sense to consider it, especially when we were assured that consideration could occur without further derailment of the intended drainage and road repair relief. Unfortunately, we are now finding out otherwise.


I thought I’d begin simply by posting a copy of the remarks I made last night at the public hearing on the sewer district extension for Masullo Estates. Others in attendance raised many other important questions so I’d encourage you to try to see the taped replay on TV.


Thank you for this public hearing finally.

I thought I’d try to keep my comments limited to the actual sewer district issue best I could. I’ll try not to stray too far into peripheral issues which are certain to creep in despite my best efforts, but I feel I’ve spoken to many of them already in recent weeks anyway.

Prima facie, this sewer district extension proposal looks attractive on economic terms. Bond retirement costs are no doubt as low as could be hoped for if coupled with planned road reconstruction. But looks can be deceiving.

I love building infrastructure. I don’t mind paying to do so either. But unfortunately, this sewer district extension proposal disproportionately burdens some homeowners in the anticipated district; specifically, those that live along E. Lucille Lane, of whom I am one, who will be required to install grinder pumps at their own expense in order to connect to the line.

I’ve obtained estimates of grinder pump installation, and its cost prohibitive just to install, let alone maintain. The estimates so far range anywhere from $3000 to $10,000. Include the amortization of those numbers and economically, for those affected, the proposal begins looking unattractive.

Already, my personal feeling is that I’ll be defraying Helderberg Meadow costs since that is the driving force of this sewer initiative. On top of that, I’m expected to subsidize the cost of the line for the rest of the homeowners not required to install grinder pumps. Also, I’d be assuming a likely grinder pump maintenance headache that I currently don’t have and don’t really desire. Lastly, sewers open additional acres of land to development that are currently prohibited from development. Those landowners stand to benefit disproportionately from this sewer proposal.

Unless I hear someone else make a compelling case in favor, my predisposition is to pull the lever against approval of the sewer district extension for Masullo Estates. If approved, I won’t connect, until forced to do so.

As desirable as sewers may be, let’s remember this in proper context of what we as residents originally sought. We need road reconstruction and drainage relief. Sewers were an add-on consideration, not a priority, nor a desire. The high water table is the underlying issue responsible for our dilemma and no matter how you slice it, sewers to replace septic only nominally, if at all, alleviate it. It’s simply not a material impact to the groundwater issue.

I’m against the sewer proposal to extend the district as it stands and urge the Town Board to reject it and proceed solely with the road reconstruction and drainage elements previously planned for posthaste.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lost Moon

Remember that moment when Apollo 13 astronauts realized their problem would cause them to miss their moon landing? It was a lot like that tonight at the public hearing on sewers for Masullo Estates. It is highly likely that we will miss another season to achieve necessary drainage and road work. The referendum for the sewer extension will not occur until June 10th if the Town Board determines the sewer initiative should proceed. That scenario, coupled with increasingly less reliable road reconstruction estimates previously obtained and dependence on ACOE permissions to Helderberg Meadows could conceivably delay any other planned work by 6 months…and that was best case. It was gut-wrenching to witness the realization sweeping through attendees as the hearing progressed. But like the hope and determination that ultimately saved Apollo 13, we intend to persist in our efforts. There is one glimmer that could still turn things around.

Mr. Mertz, our champion from Day One, is still our strongest advocate. To him, we are grateful. We could’ve been easily abandoned.

I’m tired. My notes are in the car and I failed to remember my digital recorder. Perhaps after news reports, I’ll provide my version of the meeting. In short summary, the room was packed. At least a dozen residents expressed reservations or outright disapproval and many important questions were posed. No one spoke in favor but I won’t jump to the conclusion that there isn’t anyone who would vote ‘yes.’ Want to know how I weighed in? Catch the taped replay until I post a transcript of my remarks.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Trees

I'm still deep within the woods but what didn't seem possible last week has suddenly shown signs of alternative. It's several weeks at least to the edge of the forest, an edge I can't see yet. The edge of the forest offers no grand solution or reward, only resolution of sorts. But now I can search for the path to take me there. I have many paths from which to choose, unfortunately, and only one leads to where I want to wind up; the others undoubtedly will lead me deeper into the woods. Strangely, it's 3:00 PM as I come to this decision...I am confident in my choice.

Smokey the Bear

It must be Spring again. I know that not by the bloom of the forsythia or the flutter of the hummingbird outside my window but by the steady roar of chainsaws working across the street.

There is no curb cut, yet a registered pickup truck freely enters and exits the woods now to aid in deforestation.

As brush piles are forming throughout the woods, I can only wonder if matches will join stupidity again this season. After reading an article in today's Gazette about the numerous wildfires in the area that started through negligence and ripe conditions, I've double-checked that emergency police and fire numbers are in my cell phone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Two things to watch.

First, of course, is the public hearing on extending a sewer district to include Masullo Estates next Wednesday, April 23, 2008. This is the precursor that needed to occur prior to undertaking planned road reconstruction and drainage relief for the subdivision. I intend to speak. I’m sure I won’t be alone.

Second, the court ruling in Niskayuna overturning a previous court decision regarding Stanford Crossing has now prompted calls for a moratorium. In fact, the Gazette editorialized today on the topic. I find it interesting especially since I intend to renew my own call for a moratorium in Rotterdam.

Off the Grid

Sad circumstances have conspired to curtail my ability or will to post. I hope to be able to channel my emotions constructively soon. In the meantime, I am comforted and inspired by a quote from my friend, John Mroz:

“Peace is not the absence of chaos or conflict, but rather finding yourself in the midst of that chaos and remaining calm in your heart.”

While I was Sick

While I was ill (which is one reason I haven’t posted in a while), two Daily Gazette news articles caught my attention. The first was “Owners ordered to fix septic system / Sewage bubbled from ground at truck stop” by reporter Justin Mason on April 2nd. This was especially interesting because the McLane’s distribution facility is directly across the street and will also be served by a septic system. Resident concerns about McLane’s aired recently during the Princetown hearings begin to be viewed in a different context altogether and hopefully, will be factored into future decision-making.

The second article, “Residents say Route 7 is due for an upgrade /
DOT spokesman says studies show little need to change road” by Mr. Mason also, amplified that infrastructure in that area is increasingly becoming substandard to support existing demands let alone anticipated development.. The I-88 exchange is poised for development and undoubtedly will affect future traffic flows all the way through the 5 Corners intersection. It is naïve to think otherwise and irresponsible not to address the inadequacies beforehand.

DOT spokesman, Peter Van Keuren, aptly sums up the situation though the intent of his quote runs contrary to the point I make here. He is quoted, “some of the issues may end up being the price the area will have to pay for economic development. It’s kind of a Catch -22.”

Everything in Rotterdam when it comes to development seems to be a Catch-22. That’s because we don’t have a proper Comp Plan and we can’t as a community seem to see past the immediate dollar sign. Let’s face it; development of some kind will occur in and along that corridor. Believing otherwise is equally as naïve as believing that the current infrastructure is adequate to advance that development.

It doesn’t have to be a Catch-22. And if economic development comes at a “price” that destroys QOL, then there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of sense behind achieving the development anyway, does there?

For those that don’t accept the simple argument above, why not turn the Catch-22 inside-out? Instead of saying, “some of the issues may end up being the price the area will have to pay for economic development” we can state, “some of the potential for economic development may have to be curtailed until adequate infrastructure can be built.” Better still, actually build the infrastructure first. In all likelihood, the result is an eventual lower “price” that we can all live with comfortably.