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Downtown Glens Falls. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Downtown Glens Falls. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Growing Glens Falls region means more infrastructure needs

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During a visit to Glens Falls yesterday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand stopped by the campus of Adirondack Community College to meet with local economic development leaders. Unlike much of the North Country, the economy in the Glens Falls region is strong, with unemployment just over 5 percent and a wave of new construction and new businesses.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Drive through the region and you see a huge amount of construction and economic growth: a new medical center in Warrensburg, new shopping centers at exit 20 between Lake George and Glens Falls, and a new hotel planned for Lake George itself.

Global Foundries is up and running thirty miles down the road in Malta, close enough that there are more commuters.

Glens Falls area economic development leaders say infrastructure, including roads and wastewater treatment plants, need to be expanded and modernized.  Photo: Brian Mann
Glens Falls area economic development leaders say infrastructure, including roads and wastewater treatment plants, need to be expanded and modernized. Photo: Brian Mann
Queensbury town supervisor John Strough says these are good times for his region. "We think we're going to experience some growth. Now what stifles the growth is the limited infrastructure."

This is a problem that a lot of the North Country would love to have: the kind of growth that means a desperate need for more infrastructure.

But Ed Bartholomew, who heads the Glens Falls Economic Development Corporation, says the lack of sewer and wastewater systems could be a bottleneck for new residential retail and industrial projects.

"From a sanitary sewer point of view, we have aging infrastructure," he said. "Aging wastewater treatment plants that need [to be] upgraded."

Sen. Gillibrand acknowledged the need and said she's pushing for more funding for grants and loan guarantees.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (R) sits with Adirondack Community College president Kristine Duffy. Photo:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (R) sits with Adirondack Community College president Kristine Duffy. Photo:
"Warren County alone was $100 million worth of wastewater and sewer needs and Washington county is $110 million. So it's a huge need and…it's essential for any growth," she said.

Gillibrand sits on a key environment committee in the Senate and says she'll use that post to advocate for more dollars.

John Strough, Queensbury's town supervisor, says building the kind of infrastructure that will keep pace with the Glens Falls region's growth will require tax dollars from outside the North Country.

"This is all very expensive, beyond our local financial capabilities," he insisted.

It's important to point out that not all of Warren and Washington Counties are taking part in the mini-boom that's come to Glens Falls.

Warren County alone was $100 million worth of wastewater and sewer needs and Washington county is $110 million. So it's a huge need and...it's essential for any growth.
Laura Oswald, head of economic development for Washington County, says some little towns also need new infrastructure just to try to keep what businesses they have.

"For our villages the cost is pretty much prohibitive. There are villages where the cost is pretty much prohibitive. We have one village which has lost six businesses since September due to septic issues, and that's a pretty significant problem." She identified the community as Salem and warned that some small communities face the risk of a "down spiral" if they don't have infrastructure needed to attract new investment.

Glens Falls itself also faces some real economic challenges going forward, including concerns about the struggling downtown civic center and continued pressure on Glens Falls Hospital, which employs more than 2000 people.

The hospital has seen the number of patients plummet in recent years as a result of health care reform.

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