There will be one fewer municipal partner in the Stormwater Coalition of Albany County, after the organization doubled its fees for the Village of Voorheesville.
Village Board of Trustees members signaled their intention to leave the county Stormwater Coalition during a workshop meeting on Monday, Sept. 16, after the annual membership fee for the village was more than doubled to around $7,300, according to Mayor Robert Conway. The independent coalition relies on membership fees to cover administrative expenses. The agency chose to hire a second full-time employee this year.
Conway said the village had joined the Stormwater Coalition for a “strength in numbers” approach and possibly to offer some sort of “protection” from state and federal regulations.
“I like the idea of being part of the coalition, because we are always talking about partnering with neighboring communities … and I see the value of it,” Conway said. “I am not worried that we don’t have capable people to handle it.”
Stormwater Coalition Program Coordinator Nancy Heinzen said as of now, Voorheesville is the only member signaling its intent to leave the organization next year. The Town of Guilderland previously left, but rejoined after less than a year. With Voorheesville’s exit, there will be 10 members in the coalition.
“It is always an unknown if the municipalities will come back and recommit again the following year,” Heinzen said. “Every municipality is trying to decide how to get a handle on these regulations.”
The coalition had received a grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to hire someone for two years to complete mapping of stormwater systems.
“I think the group felt the work of the mapping project was really valuable to the municipalities, and being that the green stormwater regulations are asking more of the municipalities … it would be a benefit to everyone to expand the staffing,” Heinzen said.
She said the agency also wanted to avoid relying on a student intern when work was entering into the legal territory of the Clean Water Act requirements.
Glenn Herbert, code enforcement officer for the village, said Voorheesville has been a member of the Stormwater Coalition since it was formed in 2008 to assist municipalities and public institutions regulated by the Clean Water Act. The members, along with coalition staff, worked to implement the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements.
“We had joined the coalition when the EPA and DEC was first coming out and really going after municipalities about cleaning up stormwater from construction sites,” Hebert said, “and doing public education to the people … to try to get them aware of stormwater and the importance of it.”
Herbert said the village’s zoning law covers “everything the coalition does” and he recommended the village leave it as it is. He suggested keeping $3,500, the coalition fee before the increase, budgeted to cover any outside contractor help.
“We can save some money here and still do just as good of a job as we were doing with the coalition,” Herbert said. “My feeling is we got a very good handle on this … we should get out of that coalition and save the taxpayers money.”
The village will be able to rejoin the coalition at any time. Conway said the village would reassess its absence from the coalition after one year and determine if it saved money by not being a member.
Heinzen said to solve drainage problems more “holistically,” municipalities will need to look at the watershed more broadly.
“We have laid the foundation for the really critical, analytical work to begin to address the drainage problems,” she said. “We have got the elements of beginning to really solve some serious problems.”
Heinzen said several resources are available the coalition’s website to anyone, but the “full breadth” of services would not be offered to the village once it leaves.
“The reality of the collation is everybody is very aware of the regulations and they have a lot of experience,” she said. “Everybody has something to bring to the table, which ends up very useful when everyone is trying to come up with their own program.”