Rensselaer looking for money to fix old infrastructure

RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) – After two water main breaks in three days, the Rensselaer mayor is blaming aging infrastructure but says there’s not enough money to make repairs.

The city of Rensselaer experienced a major water main break on Friday on Columbia Turnpike. Monday night, a second break occurred at the intersection of 1st Street and Harrison Avenue. The estimated cost to repair the two breaks is likely to cost more than what the city can afford.

In the budget, officials set aside $100,000 for emergencies such as a water main break. But that would only cover the cost of the Columbia Turnpike break.

“That’s about the fifth or sixth break I had on that street in the last year,” Mayor Dan Dwyer said.

water main rensselaer feb2015
The Columbia Turnpike water main break on February 6, 2015. (NEWS10 ABC)

Dwyer said instead of replacing the water main, crews put on a temporary patch that cost the city $10,000. He said it would cost around $40 million or $50 million to fix the city’s entire aging infrastructure.

But instead of expecting residents to cover the cost, Dwyer hopes the state will step in.

“We are not an affluent city,” he said. “We got people here living on the edge. We have to protect our people.”

Dwyer was relying on casino revenue to help with infrastructure costs.

“I would have taken that cash flow at least three-fourths of it each year on a five to seven year plan, and put it right into the infrastructure,” he said.

However, the city of Schenectady won the bid to build a casino. As a result, Dwyer said Rensselaer will have to turn to bonds to pay for repairs. But that has its limits, too, according to Dwyer.

In the meantime, Department of Public Works Commissioner Dominic Tagliento said he’s looking into other options. He said the city was awarded a state grant of $9 million to replace and add a new storm system, water and sanitary line down Washington Avenue to I-90.

Tagliento said it would be ideal to apply for a grant to fix Columbia Turnpike.

“Every time we go to Columbia Street, it’s a 24-hour affair,” he said.

Dwyer said he had to call an outside contractor to repair Monday’s water main break his crews were too busy clearing the snow. There’s no word how much that break will cost the city.

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