City approves Margaret Street Project

Mar. 17—PLATTSBURGH — The Margaret Street Reconstruction Project was given the greenlight.

City Councilors approved several resolutions Thursday night to finally put the full-depth reconstruction project in motion this spring, after more than a year of discussing, designing and planning what the City of Plattsburgh's future Downtown district will look like and how it will be funded.

The project, estimated to cost $12,452,115, will be funded through general fund and water fund bonds, New York's Touring Route Program/CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) funds, the city's Sewer Capital Reserve and the Municipal Lighting Department's Depreciation Reserve.


Mayor Chris Rosenquest said the way funding from the general fund is, it will result in a reduction in overall debt service payments the next two years.

"Per the projected debt service calculation, we are dropping $300,000 debt service by 2025," the mayor said.

"So yes, the project is bonded and borrowed, but at the end of the day, we are looking at an overall decrease in the amount that we're going to owe over the next two years."

The project will now be completed in two phases over two years.

The first phase will see the replacement of 1903 water and sewer infrastructure under the section of Margaret Street between Cornelia Street and Broad Street as well as under the section of Brinkerhoff Street and Court Street between Oak Street and Margaret Street.

That will begin this spring.


Andrew Durrin, assistant superintendent for the City's Department of Public Works, explained the necessity of the first phase to councilors Thursday.

"One of the reasons why we've looked at doing this project is the number of water line breaks that we've had over the last 10 years on Margaret Street," Durrin said.

Generally, he said, a water line break is fixed within 24 hours, but other issues persist longer.

"The problem after that is when you shut down your water system, you're introducing errors in your water system, which can lead to future breaks, but you also have to issue boil water ordinances, which affect the downtown businesses greatly," he explained.

"When you shut down the water system and issue a boil water notice, there's at least 48 hours before those businesses can start serving regular water without having to boil it. So most of the time, businesses choose to shut down until the boil water notice is lifted."


Additionally, the current system poses other risks to the City.

"Your sewer lines are actually from 1875," Durrin said.

"It's astonishing to see those lines that are old brick that they actually laid in an oval shape. When we stuck our sewer camera through them, there were bricks that are missing that have fallen into the sewer. So those have to be replaced so they don't cause obstruction and get backed up into people's homes and businesses and then they are turning around and suing the city for a loss of revenue, having to close down businesses, so those are the reasons why we looked at this project."


The second phase of the project, which will be started and completed in 2024, will convert Margaret Street into a southbound one-way, with northbound traffic diverted to other streets, such as Oak Street.

The project received a majority of support from the Common Council at Thursday night's meeting, despite some initial hesitation by councilors when the project was first proposed two weeks ago.

Councilors Julie Baughn (D-Ward 1), Mike Kelly (D-Ward 2), Jennifer Tallon (D-Ward 4), Caitlin Bopp (D-Ward 5) and Jeff Moore (D-Ward 6) all voted in favor of the project resolutions, which sought approval of the project itself, bond issuances, and the construction bid and inspection.

Elizabeth Gibbs (D-Ward 3) was the lone councilor to vote against all the resolutions.


Baughn, though she voted in favor of the project, had raised concerns about potential issues that may arise after construction starts.

"What I'm having a hard time with, no matter how many times it is explained to me, is the final amount of this enormous project," she said.

"What if they start tearing everything up, complications come up and they most certainly will, for whatever reason and a change order comes into play and more costs are added on. Do I understand any of this? No. I'm trying to still wrap my head around all the pluses and the minuses, but debt is debt and that's what sits wrong with me."

Councilor Gibbs was concerned that they might not have exhausted all avenues of possible funding before moving forward on a project of this size.

"It (the project) is going to incur about a $5 million debt to the city taxpayers," Gibbs said.

"If there is an opportunity to have funding before this project goes forward, I think we owe it to the city taxpayers to pursue that, rather than go through the project and have it on the backs of the taxpayers."


Gibbs said she had reached out to Northern Border Regional Commission, specifically, to inquire about grants and whether or not they would qualify.

Rosenquest said they had looked at Northern Border Regional Commission for a number of projects already.

"We looked at a number of grant opportunities and determined what's going to fit and what's not going to fit," he said.

"That program specifically, we have actually attempted to apply to ... that program funding for a number of projects that were identified by that program as quantified or quantifiable or justifiable projects to apply for. None of those had come to fruition for the City of Plattsburgh. and also, we're talking about a $400,000, maybe, $200,000 grant coming out of that program. Not a million dollars or two, three or four million grant opportunity."

Councilor Kelly, a staunch supporter of the project, added that this was the "time to act" on the project.

"If we do not do this, then we will continue to shortchange our residents who decide to live Downtown, making it difficult for them to obtain water. Water is essential, it's not an optional service that cities provide, it's essential so I would say it's time to move ... and attempt to find grants after the fact," Kelly said.

"People who live Downtown deserve (a) clean, safe water system, just like everybody else in the city."


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