Town mulls eminent domain for water lines

Julie Lewis | The Daily Star The town of Oneonta highway garage in West Oneonta is shown Wednesday.

The Oneonta Town Board on Wednesday voted to authorize bidding for a new highway garage and approved a resolution that would allow the town to use eminent domain to acquire lands so they can build water lines for a new Southside water project.

One of the property owners that hasn't responded to the town's easement requests for the water project is the owner of Aaron's Rent-A-Center on Southside. Town Supervisor Robert Wood said the town has been sending letters to that property owner for almost two years, contacting them at least 10 times, and hasn't gotten a response.

The eminent domain process would involve digging a trench across the front of the Aaron's property along the edge of the road, giving Aaron's access to water, Wood said. After that, Aaron's would be unable to build anything on top of that trench. The other property from which the town hasn't received a reply belonged to an owner who is now deceased.

The Southside water project was first proposed in 2010, Wood said, after the state Department of Health advised the Town Board of its "concern over the growing number of small, privately-owned public water systems that exist in this relatively concentrated area," according to a report by Lamont Engineers on the Town of Oneonta's website. 

Since 2000, there have been 79 coliform sampling violations, 18 chemical sampling violations, and 84 operational violations for the 27 public water systems in the Southside area, according to the report. Of the 27, all but two have had violations since 2000. 

They suggested that the town consider a municipal water system to serve the Southside area. The project's estimated annual cost per typical household, according to the report, is $450-$500. 

The board also voted to authorize bidding for a new highway garage. The current garage, at 3970 state Route 23, is in poor condition and not big enough for all of the trucks, Wood said, adding that there have been safety hazards for workers.

The town had been looking at building a new garage for about five years and the preliminary estimate for building the new garage is about $3 million, he said. Once contractors submit their bids for how much they can build it for, the town may adjust its estimate. Wood said the town hopes to have started construction on the garage by this fall and to occupy it by the fall of 2020, Wood said.

In other news, the board:

• Agreed to participate in a Climate Smart Community effort through Otsego County.

• Approved a contract with New York State Electric and Gas Corporation to convert 337 street lights in town to LED lights.

• Agreed to participate with the city of Oneonta in the Riverfront Revitalization Grant.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.