SARANAC LAKE - Funds from President Barack Obama's massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are finally starting to flow into rural areas.
Gov. David Paterson announced last week the release of approximately $3.5 million in stimulus funds to clean water projects across upstate New York.
Five municipalities in the North Country welcomed the arrival of between $12,500 and $1.33 million in Green Innovation Grants aimed at upgrading sewer and water infrastructure. The village of Saranac Lake got $1 million for the purchase and installation of 2,000 new water meters.
According to a statement released by the governor's office, the meters will fully meter the remainder of the village's water system and reduce usage by approximately 70 million gallons per year.
Mayor Tom Michael was pleased to learn the application for the funds was accepted.
"It's good news for us," he said. "We get to make a significant upgrade to our water system without spending village money."
Currently, only half of the users in the village are hooked up to meters. The rest are on a flat rate plan.
"We just say, you have X number of bedrooms in your house, we estimate you use this much water, you could use a gallon, you could use a million gallons we would never know the difference," Michael said. "This has been a recommendation for our water system I think since the 1950s that we install meters in all of the homes."
The new meters allow the village to compare what it's pumping out versus what it's actually selling. They will also help locate leaks in the system or user fraud.
"The other part of the problem is that the meters that are currently in the village are privately owned," Michael said. "So if they're faulty or if something happens we have no right or authorization to swap them out.
"These will be village-owned meters. They'll be remote-read meters so we want have to go up and read things on the outside of peoples' houses. And it will make collection of data that much easier. It will also potentially open the door to monthly billing if the board wants to go that direction - that gives people a smaller rate each month."
Michael noted that the board has not made any changes to the village's billing structure yet, however.
The $1 million will cover both the purchase and the installation of the new meters. Village staff, headed up by Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, applied for the funding about one year ago.
"It was applied for through stimulus funds and through a couple different grants," Michael said. "And in the mysterious ways of New York State it made its way to somebody's desk and was one of several grants that were approved. It's a fantastic opportunity for Saranac Lake, for a system of 2,000 meters to get $1 million grant to install them is really a fortunate opportunity for us."
People who already have meters will get new heads retro-fitted to them so new plumbing won't need to be installed. The other half of users will have new meters installed in their basements.
In all, New York State received $432 million through the stimulus bill for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $86 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.