OSWEGO — City officials are moving forward with a wide-ranging portfolio of multi-year infrastructure plans that range from removing unwieldy sidewalk foliage and installing environmentally friendly lighting to long-awaited wastewater facility upgrades.
The city Administrative Services Committee Monday night voted in support of $21.8 million in facility enhancements, financed through a balance of state grants and budgetary re-allocations.
Next Monday, the full common council will meet and vote on the proposed resolutions.
Clean water grant applications
The four-member Administrative Services Committee approved Mayor Billy Barlow’s state grant application for $3.7 million to rehabilitate a wide swath of Oswego’s sewage system. Construction would take place from Cayuga Street to state Route 104 on the west side and the lakeside portion of the First Ward.
Through the state’s 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA), Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided a total of $350 million for municipal water system upgrades to offset unfunded mandates from Albany. The city is eligible for $3.7 million, or 25 percent of the project’s $14.6 million total estimated costs.
Barlow said if the city’s application is accepted in the coming months, designing the rehabbed sewers would take until next summer, and construction will begin later in the season and last until summer of 2021.
Another WIIA grant application from the city seeks $3 million for “upgrades and improvements” to the Water Treatment Plant on Sheldon Avenue, which provides 16 million gallons of water per day to the city of Oswego and town of Scriba. The $6.2 million project would install sodium hydrochloride disinfectant and a new back-up generator.
“Right now, the Water Plant has no back-up generator, so if the power goes down, the pumps go out — that’s a real problem,” Mayor Barlow told councilors Monday. “The city can last about eight minutes without electricity with power from the plant.”
Replacing downtown trees, pavement
DPW Commissioner Tom Kells said growing roots have conspired with pavement projects along state Route 104 to cause tripping hazards along the sidewalk. Kells requested a general fund transfer of $25,000 to install durable pavement from Bridge to Oneida streets and Bridge to East Fourth streets.
Kells asked the committee for budget allocation to install “tree-flexible porous” pavement along Bridge Street to withstand the growth of tree roots. DPW officials are looking into plans to replace the trees with a tree species with roots that wouldn’t cause the pavement or metal crate surrounding the trunk to buckle.
“We’ve had to remove the metal crates because the trees have grown so much that it’s pushed them up and caused tripping hazards,” Kells said. “We have this a lot on First Street, and the canopy is uneven.”
Councilors were eager to vote in favor of transferring Kells’ requested $25,000 from general funds to the DPW’s operational budget.
Councilor Kevin Hill, R-3rd Ward, who vocally supported the project and called the ruptures in the sidewalk caused by protruding roots an “eyesore,” added that street side foliage also obscures local businesses and drives customers away because of the uneven and potentially dangerous sidewalk.
“I’ve heard from downtown business owners, who have asked for this for some time, that this is affecting their ability to clear snow and keep their customers safe,” he said. “They’re also obscuring the front of the buildings. We have to find a balance between a tree that creates a pleasing canopy and the ability for people to see our businesses.”
The four-councilor committee also approved what leaders call one of the city’s most efficient projects, both financially and in environmentally — to install a 96-watt LED lighting fixture.
The fixture will illuminate Churchill Road and the Legends Ball Field Area for $158 per year. This cost estimate from National Grid is a scarce drop in the ocean of Oswego’s more than $40 million fiscal year budget, said committee Chairman Rob Corradino, R-7th Ward.
“Because of the success of the softball complex, there is additional traffic on Churchill Road, but there are only two streetlights on that stretch of highway which is approximately three-quarters of a mile long,” Corradino said. “LED lighting is the most efficient current technology, so $158 and change every year is pretty cheap.”