Tedisco, Now in Senate, Expects to Pass 'Safe Water' Law

An annual effort at the Capitol to repair New York's aging infrastructure comes with a twist this year. Geoff Redick has more from the Capitol, where lawmakers presented their plan.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Jim Tedisco spent the 2016 legislative session advocating for his new "safe water" fund bill, to no avail. The problem was that Tedisco was laboring from a near-powerless position in the Assembly's Republican minority.

Tedisco expects 2017 to be a very different story.

"I think it does make a difference," said the now-Senator Tedisco on Thursday. "I think I've got a lot of good support from my colleagues in the Senate."

The bill Tedisco is re-introducing is nicknamed SWAP: the Safe Water Infrastructure Action Program. It would halt the state's long-held practice of funding water and sewer repair on an as-needed basis, mostly through grant programs.

Instead, SWAP would adhere to a weighted formula and administer funding based on how many miles of pipe a community has underground. The sponsor in the Assembly, Democrat Phil Steck, claims the formulaic approach is best for aging upstate cities that have lost thousands of residents.

"In cities like Schenectady, which I represent, you have extensive infrastructure that has to be maintained, even though the population is smaller," Steck said.

He noted that Schenectady's infrastructure was built out when the population was near 130,000; the city's current residency hovers around 65,000.

The group at Thursday's promotional news conference, held in the Senate majority conference room, included Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello. She dealt with a massive break in a 33-inch water main during her first days in office, which shut down water access to parts of Troy and halted the sale of water to several surrounding municipalities.

On top of that, water flowed through city streets like a river.

"At this time last year, you could actually hop into a kayak and go down 5th Avenue," Mantello said. She added that Troy lost $100,000 in water sale revenues in 2016, some of that related to the burst water main.

Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan explained that, over the long run, a new formulaic funding program could stabilize her budget for water repairs and allow her to responsibly plan for pipe replacement projects.

"An emergency repair for a sewer line is about $1,300 a foot," Mahan said. "But to replace a sewer pipe and plan for it is $85 a foot."

Tedisco believes Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is on-board with the SWAP proposal, which leaves Assembly Democrats to lobby their speaker, Carl Heastie. The governor's office would be the final hurdle during budget negotiations this spring.

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