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A better proposal

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The proposal for the city of Watertown to annex 88 acres of land in the town of Pamelia between the city limits and Route 81 on the south side of Bradley Street is long overdue and paves the way for development of a large tract of land to benefit all of Jefferson County.

Pyramid Management Group acquired the land in 1981 to build a mall. Those plans collapsed when Pyramid refocused its attention on outer Arsenal Street where its Salmon Run Mall attracts hundreds of thousands of shoppers today.

The land lay fallow for more than 30 years until Mark S. Purcell’s construction company paid $1.25 million for it last fall. Mr. Purcell intends to take advantage of the railroad line that borders the land to create an industrial park.

Any successful project on the site will require cost-effective water and sewerage service, something that could not be developed in 1981 when the town of Pamelia embarked on the creation of a water and sewer district for the land. The district required a well system, water tower, processing plant, distribution system and a sewerage processing facility. The town wanted to create all this infrastructure because the city of Watertown at the time had decided it would not sell such services outside the city limits.

Pamelia could not put together a reasonable package. Instead, the town of Watertown created new water districts, which fueled nearly 30 years of nonstop development on outer Arsenal Street using water and sewer services processed by the city.

What has changed since 1981? The Development Authority of the North Country’s Fort Drum sewer line crosses the land providing access to sewer services.

And New York State is looking askance at creating even more government jurisdictions including water districts. In fact, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has offered tax incentives to local taxing jurisdictions to reduce the property tax burden on property owners by consolidating services.

What has stayed the same? No public water system services Mr. Purcell’s land. And the town has dusted off its 33-year-old plan to create another governmental entity to provide the water and sewer service.

And the land is still contiguous to the proposed development and has ready access to the city of Watertown’s massive water and sewer system. Gov. Cuomo has promised taxpayers property tax rebates if their local government holds tax increases less than 2 percent and consolidate government activities.

Annexation of this land in the town of Pamelia solves a variety of problems. First another government agency is not created. Needed public services would be provided using the infrastructure of an already fully functioning government.

Second, Watertown and Pamelia could meet the criteria of consolidation of services. Third, all Watertown and Pamelia property taxpayers would enjoy cashing a rebate check sent to them because of their local government’s effort to consolidate services. And finally, annexation will expedite a project that will leverage already existing assets to improve the economy of the whole county.

The city’s proposal makes good sense. There is no reason whatsoever that a new water district should be approved by the comptroller’s office when there is a more efficient and viable solution called annexation.

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