February 27, 2007

Standard on Village sewer plant, race

This morning's Cortland Standard reports on the Village of Dryden. There's an overview of upcoming elections, in which two Democrats (Lisa Valentinelli and Elizabeth Gutchess) and two Republicans (Bob Witty and Randy Sterling) are running for two trustee seats. The Mayor's race is uncontested, with incumbent Republican Mayor Reba Taylor running..

There's also a piece (further down) on a public hearing to be held Thursday night (now postponed to March 15th) on the increase in sewer rates for the Village and for the Cortland Road Sewer District in the Town of Dryden north of the Village. I was more than a little surprised, and suspect Town Board members will be a little surprised to see "Taylor said the state Department of Environmental Conservation had already approved the project, but the delay of the project is because the Cortland Road Sewer agreement has not been signed". It seems like every other Town Board meeting for the past year, maybe more, has included a brief discussion asking whether the Village has sorted out their side of that agreement. I should probably attend Village meetings to see what their side of the story is, but it's odd.

The other cause of delay is "also the village of Freeville may be interested in joining the sewer system." That delay might yet prove to be a critical assistance, as it sounds like the grants available in New York State to help pay for sewer systems these days are often connected to intermunicipal cooperation. Mike Lane has been encouraging this idea for a long time. That delay might be a useful delay, if it works out.

Posted by simon at February 27, 2007 8:36 AM in , ,
Note on photos


Mike Lane said:

In the mid 1960's when the Village of Dryden's sewer system and wastewater treatment plant were built, Federal grant funding provided 55% of the cost. In the mid-1980's after a joint sewer study among the Villages of Dryden and Freeville, and the Town of Dryden, 87-1/2% Federal and State grant funding was secured to update Dryden's plant, build a new sewer system and plant in Freeville, and build a collection system in the Cortland Road Sewer District.

Now grant funding for sewer projects is scarce to non-existent. Witness the problems the Town of Lansing is having to find funds for its proposed project. Some loans may be available but there is nothing like the funding that was in place in the past, which made projects affordable for small localities and their homeowners.

Dryden has about 750 residential sewer users. They will have to bear the brunt of the cost of a new multi-million dollar plant. Village officials talk about "bonding" the cost as if it would not need to be paid back. Bonding is borrowing and debt. While some bonding will be necessary, huge bond payments for 30 or 40 years for an under-subsidized project will unduely burden this and future generations.

Incredibly, last year the Village again deferred a sewer rate increase and instead slashed its annual contribution to its sewer reserve account. That meant cash to pay toward a future project was not put in the saving account. Over the past several years, sewer rates should have been increased annually as needed, in smaller amounts, instead announcing a whopping 22% rate increase this year to try to catch up.

There is funding available for intermunicipal water treatment studies. State and Federal governments encourage them. We have a history of the two Villages and the Town of Dryden successfully working together. The Town wants improvements for its sewer district. The Village of Freeville is having trouble with its plant, and the Dryden plant is so problemic that Village officials say we need a whole new one. While we study, we can approach Federal and State representatives for help. Dryden Village rate- payers should have a choice. They should not have to go it alone.

The three municipalities should come together NOW and plan for a new plant that is large enough to accommodate all three entities. Will it delay matters? Some, but we need to get it right. Otherwise the proposed 22% increase in Dryden's sewer rates will be only the tip of the iceberg as to what homeowners will soon be asked to pay. And if the recent past is any example, the public will be the last to know what unpleasantness is in store for it until it is way too late, and the bills are in the mail.