The city of Syracuse hopes to use a $10 million infusion from a New York State Assembly fund for infrastructure as a springboard to even more cash to help repair the crumbling waterlines and sewer pipes that dog the city.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner admits the word “infrastructure” has become a rallying cry for her administration. With a record number of water main breaks last year, and 251 already this year, the city is swimming in repairs. So she’s happy to get this $10 million, and wants to stretch it as far as possible. She says that means looking into the possibility of loans, as well as spending smartly and using technology to coordinate information about water main breaks, road problems and the like.
"We can use all of that data and information to drive towards a system where we can efficiently use the money with a ‘dig once’ policy. So we can do complete reconstruction of roads, complete reconstruction of water mains and other infrastructure that we find in the ground as well,” said Miner at a news conference Thursday morning.
But that’s not all. Miner wants Syracuse to become a poster child for ways cities can use technology to create a healthy infrastructure. She says that will mean turning to technologies that are currently being developed.
"There’s technology being used in cities in Japan, as well as in Boston, that are sensors that you can drop into water mains. And they will go into the water main and measure the outside of the water main and test to see where there’s potential weaknesses so we can do preventive maintenance.”
The $10 million comes from this year’s state budget by way of the Assembly’s State and Municipal Facilities Program, a pot of money put aside for capital projects like this. And Miner hopes the city can leverage this money into more, if the city gets a reputation for infrastructure innovation.
"If we take this $10 million and we can expand it, and then do good cutting edge work, people are going to come to us with more money and say, ‘you’ve done a great job in your first phase, let us give you more to try new technology and new designs,’” said the mayor.
Miner after this, the city will see if it can borrow more money for infrastructure needs, as well as seek out more grants from the state government.
“We’re going to look at what we’re able to borrow, going to Wall Street, what our debt margins are. Also to see if we qualify for additional money from the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation.”
Miner admits this money is only a start in the long process of repairing a 120-year old municipal water system.
“This money, while welcome or needed, is not enough to fix our system overnight. We don’t expect that to happen, and that was never the ask. But this will go a long way towards starting that process.”