JOHNSTOWN - Yogurt maker Fage USA received two key water and sewer approvals this week - and looks to secure another one next week - to start its $120 million plant expansion at the Johnstown Industrial Park.
The company plans to double production with a new building addition on the site, increasing its 240-person workforce by 150 employees. Fage is the Gloversville-Johnstown sewer plant's largest customer.
The Gloversville Common Council on Tuesday approved entering into a sewer allocation and capital improvement agreement with the city of Johnstown, the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board and Fage. The sewer board in September approved the agreement, which the Johnstown Common Council is slated to consider approval Monday.
"All entities that need to give approval have given it, except Johnstown," Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility consultant George Bevington told his board Wednesday night. "The approval processes are very close to happening."
It is a proposed 30-year allocation and capital improvement agreement. It indicates anticipated discharge allocations from Fage are allowed to increase from 127 million gallons of wastewater for 2012 to 286 million gallons by 2017. Under the agreement, the parties agree Fage cannot expand unless certain capital improvements are undertaken to increase the wastewater processing capacity of the sewer treatment plant on Union Avenue.
The sewer board is agreeing to have an engineer determine what capital improvements are needed.
The sewer board will bear all costs of the design work to be completed, the agreement says. The capital improvements are expected to be in the millions, although the exact amount hasn't been determined yet.
The Johnstown Water Board on Monday night also approved a new major water-allocation agreement with Fage. Bevington called it a "sister agreement" to the sewer agreement. The resolution says the water board is "authorized and directed to execute a Water Supply Agreement" with Fage and the city of Johnstown.
A memorandum of agreement prior to Monday's finalized agreement was approved in August by city officials that increases Fage's consumption of city water from 127 million gallons this year to about 300 million gallons by 2017.
Fage plans to build a 120,000-square-foot addition to its plant on Opportunity Drive and construct a new parking lot. Expansion also would include a $25 million whey pretreatment plant to be built on two acres of nearby property on Union Avenue.
In addition to the sewer and water agreements passed earlier this week, the sewer board on Wednesday passed a two-year extension on its existing whey agreement with Fage.
Bevington said this is an existing, separate "high-strength waste" agreement the sewer plant has with Fage that's due to expire Dec. 31. He said the extension carries the same disposal charge to Fage of 2.2 cents per gallon of wastewater.
Bevington said the current agreement allows his sewer plant to take in up to 500,000 gallons of whey per week, and any excess is trucked off the Fage site.
"That is currently being done from their facility," Bevington said.
But the agreement now has the potential to shift more whey directly to the sewer plant, he said. Fage wants to put in a new pumping system that would do just that, he said.
"This is all part of the process of Fage expanding as they go forward with their expansion that they'll be working on the next year or so," Bevington said.
Eventually, Bevington said, Fage will need the assistance of a $48,000-per year wastewater attendant employee who will work through the sewer plant.
"On a monthly basis, you would be reimbursed for that employee," he told the sewer board. "That is a short-term fix."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.