If all goes according to plan, Cortland and Cortlandville will connect their water systems within the next few years.
But first a lot of work must be done to see if that’s possible.
But making that determination requires money, and that’s where state grants come in. This is where the project is now: in the grant-application process to fund the study.
Mack Cook, the city director of administration and finance, said the two municipalities are trying to take advantage of a state push for intermunicipal agreements, particularly those geared toward making community infrastructure more resilient.
Cook said the push came from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to devastation following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The resulting grant programs are intended to “harden our infrastructure,” he said.
“Gov. Cuomo is very interested in inter-municipal agreements,” said Cortlandville Supervisor Richard Tupper, who credits Cook with the idea of going after the grant money to fund the project.
The proposed connection would allow the water system of either municipality to run the other’s system if one of them were to fail, Tupper said.
This would allow two neighboring municipalities “that have historically worked together” to collaborate on a mutually beneficial project, while most of the cost is picked up by the state, Cook said. By working together, Cortland and Cortlandville could share their resources so they don’t “duplicate cost,” he said.
The project would have another benefit. The city of Cortland water works can pump more than a million gallons per day beyond what the city now uses, whereas Cortlandville’s system “to my understanding, is just about maxed out,” Cook said. If Cortlandville continues to grow, it would need to build a new well and a waste water treatment facility, which would be major capital investments.
The Cortland plan now handles wastewater for Cortlandville, Cortland, McGraw and Homer.
“I’m not sure what that would cost,” Cook said, “but it would be expensive.”
The City of Cortland’s water plant produces 2.5 million gallons per day, serving about 5,200 accounts for a city population of more than 19,000 people, said Matthew Wethje, the city’s chief water system’s operator.
Wethje said the plant could produce at least an extra million gallons per day and with modifications, up to 2 million more gallons per day.
Cortlandville’s system pumped an average of 750,000 gallons of water per day in 2018, according to the town’s 2019 annual water quality report.
But there are technical challenges ahead, which require design and engineering, Tupper said.
This is what the Local Government Efficient Grant program of the state Department of State was made for, Cook said.
“This program is well suited for those entities that do not have onsite engineering capabilities, such as small cities and towns,” Cook said.
The first phase of the project would cover a preliminary evaluation of the project.
The grant program would provide a total of $50,000 for the two municipalities, and Cortland and Cortlandville would each have to put up $12,500 in matching funds, Cook said.
The second phase, which would cover the implementation of the project, would provide a total of $400,000, which each municipality would have to match with $40,000.
The initial grant, if approved, would be awarded in December. Engineering work would likely be completed by early 2021, Cook said.