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SRCS picks Fort Covington’s water proposal

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FORT COVINGTON –– The Salmon River Central School District Board of Education on Tuesday selected Fort Covington’s proposal to serve as the municipal water source for the school district.

The town of Fort Covington and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe had both submitted water proposals to the school board after the state Department of Health mandated that Salmon River find a replacement for its water system after the district’s geothermal heating and cooling system leaked in 2010, contaminating the well from which the school draws its water. A water test last year found trace levels of acetone in the district’s water supply. The school has been working closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation to remove the traces of acetone, a by-product of ethanol breakdown, from the water since last year.

The vote in favor of Fort Covington was 6-2, with Emily Lauzon and Sheila Marshall casting the negative votes. Ms. Lauzon and Ms. Marshall are members of the tribe.

Board member Robert Durant was not present for the vote.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe proposed a cost of $2.075 million with an annual charge for water of $14,400 for the project. Fort Covington proposed a cost of $2.2 million with an annual charge for water of $23,300. Both the tribe and the town agreed to enter into a 20-year agreement with SRC to provide the water, should their proposal be approved.

Ms. Lauzon said she looked at the two proposals and looked at the bottom line for the cost of the project as a whole.

“Being a taxpayer in this district, I looked at which one is going to be cheaper and which job is going to be the better job. I looked at the tribe –– they are cheaper and as far as being a taxpayer in here, I believe that we need to be fiscally responsible for the district and go with the lowest bid that is on the table,” Ms. Lauzon said.

Board President Christopher Nye said the Fort Covington rate starts out higher but stays relatively consistent, while the tribe’s proposal starts out much lower but increases dramatically over time.

“Fort Covington’s rate only increases by about 5 percent, where as the tribe’s increases by over 30 percent in the same time period,” Mr. Nye said. “It may start out cheaper but where is it headed?

“When I looked at it, I thought the fiscally responsible plan was the Fort Covington plan, because of the rate increase over time and if you follow that growth rate, where will it be in 20 years or 30 years? The lines are moving in different directions.

“I would take your (Lauzon) argument and use it –– the fiscally responsible plan is actually Fort Covington in my opinion,” Mr. Nye said.

March Associates, the school’s architectural firm, provided a fact sheet of the project proposals from the town and the tribe at the public meeting about the water proposals that was held on April 22. The sheet gave the annual costs over a 20-year period broken down into five-year increments.

The estimated annual costs from the town added up over the 20-year period equal roughly $496,000, according to the numbers provided by March Associates. If the costs from the tribe are added up over the same period, the total equals roughly $384,000, according to the March Associates projections.

Ms. Lauzon also asked when the last time Fort Covington did an improvement to the town water system.

Town Supervisor Pat Manchester said they made improvements last year.

Ms. Lauzon responded by asking why the water is still not good.

SRC board member Michael Sisto asked Susan Kennedy from the New York State Department of Health if the Fort Covington water is safe to drink.

Ms. Kennedy said, “It meets sanitary quality. There have been maximum level contaminates of iron which is what is contributing to the color of the water and the taste. In addition the water does elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide. Those are aesthetics and not health related maximum contaminate levels. Absolutely what the town is proposing to do with their project is to address those.”

Mr. Sisto said if the town’s proposal were chosen, it would improve the water for a lot more people. Mr. Sisto said he is glad the tribe has good water but an agreement with the school district would benefit Fort Covington more.

Fort Covington Councilman Paul Lauzon said, “If the school board decides to go with Fort Covington, we are going to have better water, the school is going to get what they want –– adequate water –– at the same time the community of Fort Covington will get improved water. As far as the amount of money, they are fairly close. Where that money is going to be spent is going to be a lot better spent with Fort Covington and helping the community and get a better bang for the buck.”

After the vote, Ms. Manchester said that she was just happy the vote went their way.

“We are honored to be chosen to supply the school with water,” said Ms. Manchester.

Mr. Lauzon said, “The town has always been in support of the school and now the school can give back to the community that has supported them.”

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