OSWEGO — County officials are considering a study that could lay the groundwork for a future regional wastewater treatment facility in Volney.
Operation Oswego County (OOC) and the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) have proposed partnering with Oswego County on a study to examine the prospect of revamping a long-abandoned wastewater treatment facility at the former Miller Brewing site.
The county’s limited capacity for wastewater treatment was identified as a major obstacle holding back economic growth in a recently adopted economic advancement plan, and local officials believe a regional facility could lead to business development and job growth in the area surrounding the city of Fulton and towns of Volney and Schroeppel.
The IDA purchased the two parcels, which encompass more than 215 acres, for nearly $400,000 in September 2016. IDA officials last year estimated it could cost as much as $25 million to update the treatment plant.
IDA CEO L. Michael Treadwell said expanding the local capacity to treat wastewater is key to economic growth, adding it was one of the most critical elements outlined in the economic development plan.
“Not to put your foot on the pedal and go forward for the amount of money we’re talking about I think is foolish,” Treadwell said.
OOC and the IDA are prepared to pay for half the estimated $98,000 cost of the study, which would be completed by Syracuse-based C&S Companies. The county Economic Development and Planning Committee Monday approved spending $49,000 on the study, and the full county Legislature is likely to decide on the matter in December.
Treadwell said a study would consist largely of cost estimates to retrofit the existing facility, which hasn’t been in use for more than a decade. Other major components would include how to develop a regional plant and what type of entity would be formed to operate the facility.
Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner, R-New Haven, said the study is “definitely something that needs to be done.”
“We need to open up that corridor to business,” Gardner said, noting wastewater treatment upgrades are essential to attracting business. “(The county Legislature) is trying to promote business and this is one of the best ways to do it.”
Majority Leader Shane Broadwell, R-Oswego, called the project “a great opportunity,” and noted it was important to move forward with the study now so officials could seek other funding options in the future.
Minority Leader Frank Castiglia, D-Fulton, took exception with the county paying for a portion of the study. Castiglia said the county already provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to the IDA and OOC.
“I’m totally against that,” Castiglia said of the county paying for the study. “They should be paying for it out of the taxpayer money we already give them.”
The IDA initially sought grant funding from the state to complete the study, but no funds were awarded. IDA officials said the state has set aside more than $2 billion for projects such as this, but a feasibility study would need to be completed before those funds could be accessed.
Legislator Tom Drumm, R-Oswego, said wastewater treatment is critical to industry and economic growth, but expressed frustration in the way the project has been handled up to this point.
No plans were put in place if the grant funding didn’t become available, Drumm said, and now taxpayers are on the hook to fund the study.
“Where this study loses me personally is the county’s share of funding,” Drumm said. “I certainly support the nature of it moving forward, but I can’t support the county funds.”