By Abby Luby
Millions of dollars in state and federal funds earmarked for Hudson Valley infrastructure projects lie idle while local roads, bridges, water and sewer systems continue to deteriorate.
How municipalities can tap into these funds is part of a detailed report just released by the Construction Industry Council (CIC). The 25-page study, The Hudson Valley Infrastructure Gap, covering nine counties including Westchester and Putnam, details the scope of the problems and lists strategies municipalities can use to better access federal and state funds.
CIC Executive Director John Cooney and Adam Bosch, President and CEO of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, a nonprofit that commissioned the report from CIC, gathered outside the Yorktown Highway Department last Tuesday to announce the findings of the report.
“Seventy-three percent of the roads you travel on are local roads and are not eligible for federal funding,” Cooney said. “This is a heavy burden on the majority of infrastructure that we all benefit from every day and that is the responsibility of our municipalities.”
The report includes several surveys, interviews with road superintendents and wastewater management officials. He reviewed over 10 years of comptroller expense records and funding sources. He revealed that only 11% of the more than $3.9 billion allocated statewide in 2017 for water infrastructure projects had been spent as of March 2020.
Eric Pierson, senior research planner at Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, said in the early 2010s that the state Department of Health estimated that $36 billion should be spent to ensure the continued safety of health care systems. sanitation and public drinking water. But only $272 million was allocated to improving water quality by the state last year, he said.
Overall, infrastructure spending has remained stable over the past decade.
There were 411 bridges in the Hudson Valley that were rated as “poor” on a scale of good, fair, or poor, according to Pierson, and of those 411, 76 are municipally owned. The estimated cost of repairing the bridges in poor condition is $2.8 million each.
“There’s a disconnect between the amount of money that’s committed to a project and the amount of money that goes out to the streets,” Pierson said.
Using the money for needed work means alerting lawmakers to the dysfunction.
“The government’s model for getting money allocated for real work in our communities is broken,” Bosch said. “It’s something that our legislators and policy makers really need to revisit.”
The report offers several recommendations on how municipalities can access funds to support their capital projects. Bosch referred to asset management, which involves cataloging all infrastructure assets to establish maintenance schedules, tracking life cycles to provide a funding schedule for repairs and replacements.
“That means you list all the pumps and valves, miles of railings to figure out the maintenance schedule,” Bosch said. “If a pump reaches the end of its life, there must be a replacement plan. We don’t do this statewide and we have to.
Bosch said that while there were government funds to purchase asset management software, it was poorly advertised and insufficient funding was available.
“The (CIC) report confirms what we already know,” Yorktown supervisor Matt Slater said. “Here in the City of Yorktown, we are making a record investment in our water supply infrastructure. Over $3 million will go towards relining cement and new water meters. We don’t get a dollar from the state.
Yorktown Freeway Superintendent Dave Paganelli said that if the city receives a state grant, it must first pay out the funds before being reimbursed. “At this time the highway department has reallocated two grants for $750,000, which come from my fund balance,” he said. “We believe the state takes two to three months to reimburse us once the contractor’s canceled checks are submitted.”
Slater said Yorktown applied for state water quality grant funds for the cement reline and was denied.
After 30 years of waiting, the city is finally moving forward with the $14.3 million Hallocks Mill Sewer Extension Project, affecting approximately 315 homeowners.
“And again, no state funding,” Slater said.
However, in March, Westchester County Executive George Latimer agreed to release $10 million from the county’s discretionary funds for its East of Hudson program. The county reluctantly dropped a leverage agreement tying the funds to compel the city to promote affordable housing.
Because many municipalities do not have the staff or expertise to apply for federal grants and funding programs, they generally do not apply. Hiring specialist grant writers is another recommendation made in the report. Yorktown hired the LaBerge Group to write infrastructure grants last year.
“Our return on investment has been significant,” Slater said.
In the report’s long list of recommendations, cities were to list specific projects requiring funds in the statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) as part of a four-year plan to increase their chances of receiving federal assistance.
The report also advises municipalities to initiate projects to avoid cost increases, labor shortages, higher interest rates, materials, costs, and supply chain and labor issues. consider outsourcing work to private contractors where safe and beneficial.
According to the report, capturing the institutional knowledge of long-serving employees before they retire is another step that can ease the transition of new employees into jobs.
Cooney said the full report will be shared with government entities soon. It can be found by visiting https://cicbca.org/