It’s an ambitious proposition on an ambitious timetable:
The Town of Cobleskill is asking the village to create a water district that would extend services east on Route 7 to just past Wal-Mart and the Adams property, the site Lowe’s still wants, according to Supervisor Roger Cohn.
What’s more, the town would like it done yesterday.
“They’re still coming,” Mr. Cohn said of the promised Lowe’s, which has been in the works for nearly three years.
“There’s no question. There will be something soon.”
But while Mayor Mike Sellers and trustees agreed “everything’s negotiable,” even water, it seemed unlikely they’d take the first step last night, Tuesday, and vote to form the district.
In a special meeting between the town and village last Tuesday, County Planner Alicia Terry set the stage for the town’s request by running through a handful of studies and economic development efforts, including the Empire Zone and Economic Summit.
Ms. Terry urged the two to “have a dialogue about what’s happening on your fringes, your borders.”
That includes Shad Point where a mystery company, Avalon, in search of 100 shovel-ready acres for as many as 500 jobs, has already visited.
Though that might be a good spot for a second water district, Mr. Cohn said right now he’s focusing on making the Adams property more attractive to Lowe’s by being able to sell the company water purchased by the town from the village.
Under a timetable he suggested to the village last Tuesday, the village would agree to the district on the 6th, last night.
Then the town could act on it at their meeting on the 12th, accept an expected petition from property owners, and then schedule and hold a public hearing forming the district on the 22nd.
That would be an ambitious timetable even if the village didn’t have a history of refusing to sell water outside its boundaries without annexation, something Trustee Sandy Mackay reminded the town of last Tuesday.
“You realize we have insisted on annexation,” Mr. Mackay said. Otherwise, the village, which provides a whole slew of services—not just water and sewer—gets no additional tax revenue to fund them.
Yes, Mr. Cohn said, but a water district would open up the Route 7 corridor to jobs and economic development and without Guilford Mills and with SUNY Cobleskill using a lot less village water, “it appears the water is there.”
Trustee—and former mayor--Bill Gilmore said the village would “certainly be wise to look at” the town’s proposal; fellow Trustee McGuire agreed there’s an economic crisis, but pointed to the village’s policy of requiring annexation in exchange for water and sewer.
“How can we cherry-pick who’s going to be annexed?” she asked.
Mr. Mackay said he’s waiting on the results of a consolidation study by the Center for Governmental Research and though he’s not arguing—yet—that Cobleskill should become a city, he did point out that’s an alternative that would boost the village’s sales tax revenues from $100,000 a year to $3-4 million and eliminate the need for property taxes.
Agreeing any negotiations need to be a two-way street, Councilman Linda Angell said it’s possible the town could reimburse the village for revenue lost from annexation “down the road.”
Ms. Angell also brought up the idea of a police district the two discussed a couple of years ago with those in the district paying the village for the service.
“This is an opportunity for both of us to go forward,” she said.
Councilman Sherwood Veith pointed out all of Cobleskill benefits from economic growth.
“Everything in the world is negotiable,” he said. “We want to play with you.”
Mr. Mackay agreed as did Ms. McGuire.
But both questioned the town’s timetable.
“We can negotiate, but I don’t know if we can do it in a month, Ms. McGuire said.
“Yes, it’s ambitious, but it’s doable,” answered Mr. Cohn
“It’s not easy,” said Mr. Mackay.
A water district won’t work unless the village benefits, too, and it will take time to figure out what they can be, he said.