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The Four Town Economic Development / Water Project initiated by Town Supervisors and Council Members in Geneva, Phelps, Waterloo and Junius recently received recognition by the New York State Chapter of the American Water Works Association (NYS AWWA) as the 2019 “Project of the Year.”

The water project significantly increases the number of residents receiving public water in each of the four communities while enhancing the corridors near NYS Thruway Exit 42, making the area more attractive for economic development.

AWWA recognized the project for its unique approach, and successful collaboration among the four towns.  Planning and design was provided by engineers from MRB Group who worked closely with town staff. The plan utilized local workforces, involving extensive cooperation between the four municipalities involved, along with a fifth municipality, the Village of Waterloo.  The Village will provide the water supply and day-to-day operations of a pump station. The projected cost savings for the project, when compared to a conventional approach, is more than $2 Million.

According to MRB Group President Ryan Colvin, the project started in 2008 when the Town of Phelps Supervisor Norm Teed and his (then) Deputy Town Supervisor Carl Belcher attended a Town of Junius Board Meeting to discuss a possible joint water project.  Colvin was the local engineer at the time, and suggested that MRB Group could bring more towns into the project.

MRB Group ultimately assisted four communities all struggling with the same challenge:  how to get a critical supply of safe, reliable drinking water to residents in an affordable manner. Instead of planning and pursuing the projects independently, the “shared-services” approach involved collective purchasing, coordinating equipment and teams, and planning construction efforts in a manner that would allow local, “in-house” forces to perform the work.

“It was a way for four communities to solve local problems with a regional approach,” said Colvin.  “We’re grateful to NYS AWWA for the recognition of what we believe is a model project. This demonstrates what communities can accomplish by working together,” he added.

The effort spanned four neighboring towns in two counties: Ontario and Seneca.  The Towns of Geneva, Phelps, Waterloo and Junius each needed to supply water to residents and businesses in critical corridors.  Area wells showed increasing levels of contaminants, and while the area was ready for economic development with nearby access to the New York State Thruway, the lack of available water was a strong deterrent to investment.

By joining forces, the involved communities could demonstrate a unified, regional approach.  This garnered support from then State Senator Mike Nozzolio, who applauded the collaboration and provided State funding in the form of a $50,000.00 grant to each of the four communities.

Strong leadership was required as each of the four Supervisors worked with their respective boards to convince residents that the opportunity to collaborate with neighboring towns could create critical infrastructure at a significant savings.  Each town could benefit by sharing manpower and equipment which would significantly reduce the cost of construction. Material costs would be lowered through the stronger purchasing power achieved by placing collective orders. An added benefit to the entire community would be the enhanced potential to market the affected corridors to new businesses and investors as “ready for development.”

The Four Town Water & Economic Development Initiative was formalized and project design began in 2016.  MRB Group assisted all the respective Towns with the establishment of water districts and developed necessary cost estimates.  Once the districts were formed, the next task was to complete surveying and continue into design. A significant focus was placed on project coordination, which included phasing construction, carefully staging material deliveries and assisting the towns’ water or highway teams in coordinating staff and equipment utilization, so normal operations of their departments could continue without interruption.

MRB Group coordinated design approvals from several entities, including the New York State Departments of Transportation, Health, and Environmental Conservation, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and involved railroads.  In September 2017, a ground-breaking ceremony was held in a central location within the improvement area, celebrating the start of construction. The Town Supervisors were joined by their board members, staffs and crews.  They gathered their residents together with MRB Group, NY State Assembly and Senate Representatives, County Chairmen and fellow Supervisors, along with officials from the Regional Economic Development Council and area Chambers of Commerce.  Local media were present and the event was featured on the front page of the Finger Lakes Times, hailing it a “unique” shared-services approach and an economic development opportunity.

Phased through multiple budget and construction years, the project involves approximately 15.5 miles of water main installation and is currently substantially complete.  On Thursday, the pump station created to support the new lines, located on Sessler’s Drive in the Town of Waterloo, was tested and brought online. The final installation of pipe in Junius is planned for later in 2019, at which time the Village of Waterloo will begin to supply the new lines with water.

“The Town of Waterloo is pleased to work together with the Towns of Geneva, Phelps, and Junius to expand services to residents – and support much needed economic development,” said Waterloo Supervisor Don Trout.  “This project has been many years in the making. We are proud of this accomplishment and thank the NYS AWWA for their recognition,” he stated.

“This joint water project shows great things can be accomplished when everyone works together on a common cause.  I would like to thank all my staff for all their hard work and each town’s involved work force. New elected officials saw the importance of this joint project and the project never slowed down.  Thank you again to all involved,” said Phelps Supervisor Norm Teed.

“It’s a great thing that the four towns worked so well together, and successfully collaborated on such an important project,” said Junius Supervisor Ernie Brownell.

“This project is a win for ratepayers, and it’s been rewarding to collaborate with the Supervisors and water staff of our neighbors,” said Geneva Town Supervisor Mark Venuti.  “Ideas were kicked around at many joint meetings and problems solved by the local experts in the room. I’ve learned a lot and am inspired by the positive work ethic and cooperative spirit all the participants brought to the enterprise.  The four-town water improvement project is the poster-child for shared services and collaborate effort that saves money and results in a superior product,” Supervisor Venuti said.

“Residents from the Towns of Phelps, Waterloo, Geneva and Junius can celebrate an accomplishment having completed significant infrastructure improvements at a substantial savings.  The MRB Group team is very proud to have played a role in this tremendous project,” Colvin concluded.