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December 14, 2013

Southside water plan gets lift from state

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The award of a $500,000 state grant to the town of Oneonta’s proposed extension of water service to Southside will greatly enhance the project’s chances of winning more government support, according to Town Supervisor Bob Wood.

“The project is starting to really come together,” Wood said in an interview.

The economic development award reeled in this week represents about 6 percent of the projected total cost of extending water lines to Southside, Wood said

Southside has turned into the region’s biggest cluster of big box stores and shopping centers — and more sites are available for the developers.. But some businesses have been hesitant to locate there because the lack of a water supply would require that they install expensive wells, proponents of the project.

Wood said the state grant will boost the chances of the town getting approval for some $8.5 million in financing from state and federal agencies. The total tab for the project is expected to come to about $9 million.

Another looming hurdle for the project is whether Southside residents will agree to create a new water district. Wood said he is optimistic that measure would pass when voters act on it. The question is expected to be decided next fall, and projections suggest having a water district would cost each household about $300 per year, he said.

The supervisor said he expects homeowners will buy into the project because it will enhance the values of their houses and make them more marketable when they want to sell.

Bringing the water system to fruition will also likely hinge on crafting a financing package that is affordable, he said. That is one of the goals of the grant applications that will ultimately be acted upon by the state Environmental Facilities Corporation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he noted.

The project also has the backing of the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency. Earlier this year, it approved a $100,000 loan for the town’s Southside water effort.

A 2010 survey of Southside residents determined that about 75 percent favored the water project.