Monday, July 30, 2007

A Rubber-Stamped Backroom Deal . . .

Here we go again . . . more back-room dealing by Oneida County and more rubber-stamping by our uninvolved, know-nothing County Legislature. Two weeks ago Oneida County entered into a Consent Order with the DEC. Last Wednesday (we find out Today in the Sentinel) OC Legislators (27-0, Resolution 215) approved hiring a partnership of Shumaker Engineering, Stearns & Wheler, and Brown & Caldwell.

Seems rather rushed, no? Where was the RFP advertised? Was it advertised? Or was this an "invitation only" deal?

What is really interesting is how these firms were picked.
"Four proposals were received and reviewed by a committee of county officials and representatives of three municipalities impacted by the situation."
I wonder which municipalities those might be? I wonder which county officials those might be? Were they the ones that permitted the sewer overflow situation to develop? Were any of the firms involved with projects or reviews or plans that may have contributed to the overflow situation?

Is the wolf being allowed to guard the hen house? No one rubber stamping this seems to have been interested enough to ask

And they don't even know what it will cost! But why should they be concerned about cost? They are not paying for it.
""Any fix is going to be a district cost," said County Attorney Linda M.H. Dillon ...."
"A district cost" -- again the Dirty Little Secret. Most of the people that live in the Part County Sewer District live in Utica.

While Mr. D'Onofrio may feel it is premature to know who will wind up paying the cost, WE know that unless the Board of Legislators takes some action to allocate the costs differently, Ms. Dillon's assessment is correct - the "district" will pay -- i.e., primarily Uticans. We also have known for over a year that the cost of the study alone has been estimated at $3-5 Million. So if primarily Uticans are going to be paying for this study, why were they not permitted to participate in the solicitation and review of proposals?

Why were Legislators Wood (Westmoreland) and Porter (Boonville) the ones who introduced the legislation authorizing the hiring of consultants? Their districts have no relationship to the Part County Sewer District. Legislator Miller (New Hartford), who seconded the legislation, is from a district where the problem may have been created.

The suburbs wheel and deal. They dream and scheme. Their political friends in more distant parts of the county cooperate. The County cheer leads and participates. They create problems, control the solutions, and cover their tracks. But they can't afford to do it on their own. They will send the bill to the people of Utica . . .

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from this story:

1) County Government is not up to the task of handling this issue without oversight.

2) Greater Utica's municipalities, since they are creating problems for each other, are too closely linked to remain separated.

The solution to the sewer problem, and probably many others, seems to be to (1) create a municipality of Greater Utica to replace the fiefdoms we have now and (2) transfer the responsibility for sewers and other services that the County now performs only for Greater Utica to Greater Utica.


Anonymous said...

Shumaker Engineering is the same engineering firm that is in "bed" with Roger Cleveland, Town Highway Supervisor, Town of New Hartford.

In fact, Roger Cleveland AUTHORIZED Shumaker Engineering to PERFORM work when (in fact) NO AUTHORIZATION was in place - when starting work in the Town of New Hartford.

I would certainly question the objectivity in which Shumaker Engineering operates and even have the State of New York look into their license and work practices, especially, within the Town of New Hartford.

One only needs to go to the following web site, search the minutes for "Shumaker Engineering" and behold... ( )

Personally, I would not let SHUMAKER ENGINEERING do any type of work because of their past questionable work ethics performed within the Town of New Hartford.

Anonymous said...

There are several real dirty secrets

#1 The DEC will come after Utica shortly for the same problem. The City is in as worse shape as the towns except the cost to fix the City's problems will be higher. This is why most County Legislators have little to say. The other shoe has yet to drop.

#2 The DEC under the new Spitzer administration changed the rules. The County was working under an understanding that the sewer issue would be "worked" out during the relicensing process in 08' Were operating as a DSO ( which is a less restrictive designation )

The Spitzer administration decided to reclassify us as a (SSO) whithout notice to the County, which basically put us where we are. The new administration seems very interested in flexing as much muscle as possible on the upstate communities ( except for the Indian Nation)

The only way to deal with 50 - 100 year old infrastructure is to replace it. So.......... if the towns wont' be held responsible for the cost, will Utica? I doubt it. Without a massive federal aid package ALL the ratepayers in the sewer district will be paying for 100's of millions of dollars worth of upgrades. Sadly, the entire Northeast has the same problems
( NOT just Oneida County )

There is no conspiracy. Just a huge problem that went from the back burner to the front burner. All government is responsible for maintaining infrastructure. Just ask the poor people in Minneapolis about bridge construction. We face a simular fate.

Strikeslip said...

Anonymous -
#1) I have heard before that there allegedly was a 'Utica sewer situation,' but where is the documentation of it? And if the legislators "know" something that they are not telling us, why don't they tell us?

(Frankly, the legislators have already demonstrated that they know nothing about this -- that they only know what they are being told to know, to produce the "correct" vote. Otherwise why did some complain about not having enough time to review the consent Order?)

2) Your assertion that the "Spitzer administration decided to reclassify us as a (SSO)" is incorrect. If you look at the consent order on the Oneida County Website, you will see under paragraph 6 that the DEC informed the County back in Feb. 2006 of the reclassification -- almost 11 months before Spitzer even took office.

Strikeslip said...

As a post script to my last comment -- Most county legislators are unaffected by this issue and could care less about it -- as long as their constituents are not billed. They should not be involved with making decisions that affect the operation of the sewer district.

Again, all the communities comprising Greater Utica need to wipe away their boundaries and reconstitute themselves as the municipality of "Greater Utica." We have too many interlocking problems to solve that cross municipal boundaries to continue to remain separate. The sewer responsibility should then be transferred to Greater Utica.