Orange County Partnership - News

Alliance for Balanced Growth Convenes Session Focused on Water, Sewer Infrastructure’s Role in Facilitating Smart Growth

By John Jordan

The Alliance for Balanced Growth hosted an informative session on February 29th entitled “Water & Sewer: A Strategic Resource for Smart Growth” that focused on the significant funding now available from state and federal sources for much-needed infrastructure projects and the hurdles that need to be overcome to advance these much-needed projects in Orange County.


The event, held at The Country Club at Otterkill in Campbell Hall, featured a panel that included panelists Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus; City of Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano; John Brust, principal, Delaware Engineering DPC, and Joseph G. McKay, partner at Catania, Mahon & Rider, PLLC. ABG Co-Chair Dan Depew of Holt Construction moderated the panel discussion. The program attracted more than 150 guests, who at the end of the presentation engaged in a spirited question-and-answer session.


The speakers chronicled the tremendous need to undertake repairs and or replacements of aging infrastructure in Orange County and the entire state. All noted that the region’s economic future is at stake if these investments are not made in the coming years.


For example, Conor Eckert, Vice President of Business Attraction for the Orange County Partnership, noted that earlier that day the Partnership held a site tour for one of the largest manufacturers of off-shore wind component parts in the world. Eckert related that the firm is looking to possibly develop a $600-million project in Orange County.


“The point being that water and sewer are critical components to executing on these projects,” he said.


Middletown Mayor DeStefano related that one major issue is convincing the general public that water and sewer projects will benefit their quality of life. He noted that his administration received support for those efforts after learning that selling one million gallons of water and sewer per day to surrounding communities generates nearly $6 million in revenue to the city a year, thus reducing their property tax burden.


“Sometimes people disassociate protecting the environment with development and how important it is for their families and for the quality of life of the community to share services and to have water and sewer development,” the mayor said.


Orange County Executive Neuhaus detailed some cooperative ventures the county is pursuing with municipalities, including the City of Middletown and others, to foster the development of sewer and water infrastructure in order to facilitate future development. One particular area he focused on was the Route 17M corridor in Middletown, New Hampton, Goshen and Wawayanda as a growth region, particularly in light of the major redevelopment now taking place by the New York State Dormitory Authority at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center in New Hampton.


“We’re putting tens of millions of dollars (of ARPA funding) into infrastructure,” Orange County Executive Neuhaus said. “And you are going to see some massive stuff go out to bidding for development right now.” He said the county will be investing in new sewer and water projects as well as in road and bridge infrastructure so that the roadways and spans can accommodate larger loads in the future.


Brust offered a mixed view on the state of infrastructure, noting while there are significant funding sources available via the federal and state governments, the need is growing by the day and the competition for those funds is fierce.


He related that back in 2008 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimated the sewer and water infrastructure needs statewide at $80 billion. Today, that estimate has grown to $250 billion.


New York State has ramped up its infrastructure investments in sewer and water. In November 2022 voters approved the state’s $4.2-billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. Last year, the state handed out grants totaling $1 billion for water and sewer projects. The previous seven years it had issued grants totaling a combined $2 billion.


Brust stressed that municipalities must have leadership and perseverance to see these projects through since it will take likely a year from the date of application to the grant award.


McKay related that currently, while some forward-thinking larger communities, such as Middletown and others, have the natural resources that allow them to invest for their future growth, smaller communities are simply using the available funds to make repairs to aging existing infrastructure because they do not have the natural resources, such as aquifers, reservoirs etc., available to them.


“The disconnect that I see is that a lot of the smaller communities are using that funding to repair their aging infrastructure, which has been neglected for many years,” McKay said. “So, you have part of the county moving forward with vision, and then you have some communities that want to share in that vision, but they need the money to simply, no pun intended, keep their head above water.”


The sponsors of the ABG event were: Catania, Mahon & Rider, PLLC; Greenlight Networks; Landmark Commercial Solutions and Trodale Developers Inc.