Dam renovation project set to begin

Work on the village of Potsdam’s East Dam will begin in the next week as part of the $4 million agreement with New York Power Authority. The dam is a money maker for the village and is expected to generate enough energy to pay off NYPA and municipal power bills. Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — The Village Board on Monday night approved a $2.9 million contract with the Wisconsin-based Eaton Corp. as part of the $4 million renovation of the East Power Dam.

The awarding of the bid to Eaton Corp. followed some delays in the project late last year, Village Administrator Gregory O. Thompson said, but after he and Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss spent many hours working with engineers from the New York Power Authority, the firm came highly recommended and the results will be a money maker for the village.

“We’re excited about the amount of money that we’re going to put into it and how the financing is going to work,” Mr. Thompson said.

The overall project cost is roughly $4 million with a payment plan that will span 180 months, Mr. Thompson said.

“When we first set out we were hoping for around $1.8, $2 million, $2.3. That was two years ago,” he said. “It is just one of those projects that just took us a lot longer to put it in place. We made it very clear to NYPA when we started this project, we don’t want issues, we don’t want problems. I don’t want to replicate issues that happened with other power dams. I want this to run smoothly and when we bring it back on line I want it to run and correctly.”

In turn, NYPA officials said they were going to take their time and painstakingly work through that and that is exactly what we’ve done, Mr. Thompson said.

Eaton Corp. is expected to begin work on the dam within a month and is expected to conclude work by July, when the grant money sunsets.

The project is running about three months later than was originally anticipated after the village lost some time confirming with fiscal advisers that it would not affect the municipality’s debt limit, which could have resulted in either a postponement of the project, if not outright putting it off.

“NYPA has put it in writing that they are very optimistic that this plant, once it’s back on line will have a positive cash flow after we pay them their debt service,” Mr. Thompson said. “What that means is, once we make our payment to NYPA, we’re going to have money left.”

The plant will generate more power and that will lead to a generation of more money than the village will need to make the payment, he said.

“The dam will essentially pay for itself and some toward our electric bills, if everything works out as they have been planned. We’re looking forward to it and as time goes on we’ll hopefully be able to apply more towards the power bills as we move through the 180-month period.”

Meanwhile, West Dam is still operating at 50 percent, with generator one down and generator two up and running. The village is currently looking into repairs and is in discussions with a company out of Philadelphia, and an engineer from that firm is expected to come have a look at the downed generator, though no big steps are being made to repair it yet, Mr. Thompson said.

He said because of the financial situation with the West Dam, that it is not a “big money maker,” the village is being cautious as to how to approach work on it, and NYPA has expressed interest in looking at it and may have a second opinion, which Mr. Thompson said he was open to.

“It does produce (power) for us but it doesn’t make big money, and we are trying to be as cautious as we can so that we’re not spending more than we’re making,” Mr. Thompson said. “Again, the East Dam has always been a strong dam. It’s been the stronger of the two. It’s made good power over the years, it just, unfortunately, came to the end of its life expectancy and started to break down, and now we’re being kind of blessed, if you will, with the opportunity to bring it back on line and do so without affecting the taxpayers.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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