Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Unfolding Water Crisis Story -- and Some Thoughts

Tonight the O-D published "Water Crisis: What Went Wrong?" To date it is probably the best description so far of what happened last summer to cause the crisis which put the entire Greater Utica area and West Canada Valley at risk.

A couple passages, however, rang some bells:
As the reservoir dropped, authority leaders said the changes appeared so dramatic because of the shape of Hinckley’s basin. “It's essentially doing exactly what it's designed to do,” authority Executive Director Patrick Becher said of the reservoir in early August.
Is it really? Has anyone estimated the amount of reservoir capacity that is now occupied by silt? After 90 years, there is the potential for some significant accumulation. If the reservoir contains a lot of silt, there is that much less space left to hold water. Additionally, how much silt was released when Gray Dam was destroyed? To what degree has silt accumulation changed Hinckley's capacity to hold water?
What many officials did not know is that the numbers they reviewed were flawed. Government agencies were overestimating the inflow into Hinckley Reservoir and did not fully understand the physical structure of the outflow area, some state officials said.
Why was the inflow into Hinckley overestimated? The "rule curve" used to control releases from Hinckley was written about 3 years after the 1917 Agreement was written (which required compensating flows from Gray Reservoir into Hinckley). Both were developed by the State Engineer. The "rule curve" had to have taken into account the agreed-upon releases from Gray. Could the agencies have been relying on inflow information that also contemplated releases to Hinckley from the now destroyed Gray Reservoir?

Hopefully the Working Group's Final Report will answer these questions, and tell us exactly what went wrong.

NY vs PA: NY Loses

An article appeared today in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin that illustrates what we Upstaters are up against when competing for jobs, even against states in our own back yard. "Endicott firms opts against staying in NY." Camco Manufacturing, which employs 50, will be closing in Endicott, NY and reopening about 45 miles away in Athens, PA, just across the NY border. Its president, Rich Arnold commented:
"We're sorry to leave, but New York state -- between property taxes, NYSEG costs, workers' comp -- it's about $150,000 a year extra to stay ..."
$150,000 for 50 employees works out to $3,000/year for every employee!

Endicott Mayor Bertoni and other local officials tried to get Camco to stay with incentives.
"For every line item, it was as good or better than moving away." said Bertoni, noting that officials were willing to offer Camco additional power supply at municipal rates to expand, as well as various tax incentives tied to job retention.
Maybe it is the "incentives" that is the problem. Businesses that are good for the community won't look for handouts because they know that "incentives" will raise everyone else's taxes ... and at some point, they will be paying for someone else's "incentive."

What ever the governor plans for Upstate, it is doomed to fail unless the cost of doing business in Upstate NY is brought into line with other states - - WITHOUT "INCENTIVES."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Road 'Deal' in NH

View Larger Map

This past week more information was revealed about the new office park going up in New Hartford behind (west of) "The Orchard." What at first seemed somewhat objectionable as another example of Urban Sprawl is now starting to look like taxpayer subsidy of a private developer.

First we find out that Oneida County will give a PILOT for the project: reduced property taxes for several years, and a $700,000 sales tax exemption. This ostensibly was for the purpose of retaining existing jobs at "The Hartford" in New Hartford.
Then we find out that New York State will give Hartford Financial a $500,000 grant (our tax money) to locate in the new office park.

While NO new jobs are to be produced, the area requiring police and fire protection will be expanded, as will the demand for water and sewer services and need for storm water control -- costs that will fall on the tax and rate payers in general (many of whom live in Utica).

But it's for job retention . . . That makes it OK . . . Right?

Now we find out that in addition to the PILOT, the County, the Town of New Hartford, and the New Hartford School District will take the already reduced PILOT payments and dedicate a significant portion of them to improving the "country" (it did not say County) road to accommodate more traffic.

Clearly, the road deal is unnecessary to retain the jobs at "The Hartford." The PILOT and Grant accomplished that, and the company's new building is already well under construction.

As for the proposed hotel and medical office complex, these will likely draw upon existing demand within region. While some jobs may be created at this location, the project will likely result in job losses elsewhere in the region. The market for these services is only so big (and here, it is shrinking). But, free market competition is a pillar of our society, so that is OK. Traffic at this location, however, will increase, and that will be something the public will have to cope with. But since the Town will be the ultimate tax beneficiary, it will have the funds to take care of the traffic.

This is not a County industrial park, so why Utica taxpayers should be asked to pay for road improvements there through their county taxes is unknown. There was no County help for the Utica Business Park.

The deal with the New Hartford School District seems questionable. What does developing a road have to do with education?

Is it not New Hartford's policy to require payments from developers to mitigate the environmental impacts of their projects? Here, New Hartford should be getting payments from the developer to improve the road, not (effectively) the other way around.

Plenty of questions arise the more you think about this one. Why the unusual deal here -- and not elsewhere?

EDGE: A Chance to Redeem Itself

I have been critical of EDGE, finding its performance over the years in reference to the Chip-Fab lackluster and, perhaps, worse.

There may be an opportunity for EDGE to redeem itself.

Apparently our competitors in Saratoga County were not quite "shovel ready" for a Chip-Fab either. Per last Friday's Albany Business Review:

The Saratoga Economic Development Corp. has secured many of the permits required for the project.

"There are a lot of approvals in place," Tozzi said. "The generic environmental impact statement is in place. However, they still need to go through the site plan review process." [emphasis added]

Let's see if EDGE can pull off a coup.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Clipper's Corner

A friend directed me to a new forum for the Utica area: Clipper's Corner. A lot of long time posters from some of our other area forums have found their way there too, and are making lively conversation. I've added it to my list of forum links on the side bar.

Check it out! And join in the fun!

Thanks, Clipper!

New Hartford: Missing the GAAP

Always on top of the New Hartford scene, the Concerned Citizens for Honest and Open Government have been trying for months to get a copy of the Town's audited financial statement for 2006, but it was always "not ready." Finally, after several requests, the record was supplied.

Prominently at the bottom of Page 1 of the Independent Auditor's Report is the following statement:


That is an extraordinary statement! Now we know why the Town was so reluctant to release the report. Let us see if our main-stream media looks into the details of what is an apparent problem with New Hartford's handling of your money.

Read the full report and more on New Hartford Online Blog: "Finally."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

OC's Stealth Rate Increase . . .

While everyone seems to be outraged over the 8+% increase in water rates proposed by the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, there is another part of our water bill that has just increased at almost double that rate . . . but with little notice . . . at least not until you get the bill.

That is the Oneida County Sewer Use Charge.

This was approved as one of the last acts of the County Legislature in 2007: Bill 423 to be exact, introduced by Messrs. Wood (Westmoreland area) and Porter (Boonville area) and seconded by Mrs. Mandryck (Ava area).

Was this done out of the public eye in secret? Of course not. It was done out in the open for all to see. The new rates were all set forth back in November. There was even a legal notice in the paper, and a public hearing down at the County Sewage Treatment Plant. And the Board of Legislators approved it in one of their famous public rubber stamping sessions with at 26-0 vote.

Of course, no where in the proposed rate schedule does it say that there is an INCREASE . . . .

And apparently no one on the legislature thought to ask or make an issue of it. Maybe no one raised a fuss because the bill was introduced and seconded by people from areas having nothing to do with the Part County Sewer District.

Everything was there out in the open . . . but no one noticed.

That's why it is a stealth increase.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

EDGE: That Was Some Lesson!

This week we learned that the Marcy 'Nanotech' (nee 'Chip-Fab') Wetland Permit has cost $300,000 so far, and EDGE still does not have the permit.

But it (or the lack thereof) was really much more costly
. . .
It's been seven years since Marcy town officials gave their backing to a zoning change allowing construction of a computer chip fabrication, or chip fab, plant on the site.

Since then, the Albany area has become a world leader in the field of nanotechnology . . .

In 2006, Advanced Micro Devices spent time considering the Marcy site before choosing a location in Saratoga County to build a plant that will employ hundreds.

Mohawk Valley officials learned from that experience that not having a federal wetlands permit presented a hurdle that an interested company would have to wait to clear.
Mohawk Valley officials had to learn from "experience" that the lack of a permit was a hurdle? Didn't they understand what "shovel ready" meant?

Left out of the story is the fact that EDGE shelved its Wetlands Permit application in 2002, and the County Executive (Eannace), Board of Legislators, Mrs. Destito and other elected officials apparently thought this was just fine . . . And it did not matter that we had one of the most powerful Republican Congressmen representing us: no Army Corps of Engineers Permit for Marcy.

As I posted previously:

"In the early 2000s timing was what Oneida County had to offer above everyone else. Our competition was still in the design stage and had significant hurdles (water supply and public acceptance) to overcome. But Oneida County EDGE's performance was significantly less than flawless . . . They were less than aggressive. Permitting was allowed to go unfinished. The lack of the federal wetland permit would have held any project up for months. In spite of the promise of being "shovel ready," it was not. Now our competition has surpassed us."

The question that needs to be answered is: "Why was the wetlands permit application shelved?" Was it ignorance, stupidity, incompetence, laziness, bad advice (from whom?) . . . or were they told to shelve it?

The headline should have read: "Nanotech's permit cost: One Lost Chip -Fab Plant."

Monday, January 21, 2008

What . . .Again? Another NYM School Vote

I really dislike getting solicited by educators looking for money because they seem to assume that you are stupid, that they are underpaid for their qualifications and what they do, that there are no other pressing needs in the community, that the taxpayers have deep pockets, that disaster will strike if they don't get what they want and get it NOW, and that you don't "care about the kids" if you turn them down.

The same feeling of dislike came over me when I saw the most recent mailing from the NY Mills school district pushing its building project. It was full of 'attitude.' If you remember, last October the voters turned it down. Now it's baaaaack!
"Why is the district putting up a building project for a vote again?
To ensure a healthy and safe environment, to accommodate
program changes, to meet special education guidelines, and to help all
students meet New York State Education Department requirements."
Is the school district saying that it does not currently have a healthy and safe environment, cannot accommodate program changes, does not meet special education and NYS requirements? Of course not. NYSED has not come down on the Mills. What NYM Schools is saying is that you made the wrong choice in October when you said "no," and you are going to have to go back to the polls until you get it right.

In its explanation of why "school districts need more space now when they have fewer students than they did 30 years ago" it cites the 1975 Education of Handicapped Children Act, the 1982 closing of Main St. Elementary School, the 1985 Regents Action Plan, and the 1990 Reauthorization of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. Why is all that relevant now in 2007? The school district insults the readers' intelligence. (At least the school district admits that it has fewer students.)

While NYM says that "class size research supports smaller classes," as I pointed out the other day what passes for "research" in the education field often is unscientific and is really opinion dressed up with a few facts for credibility. Older folks will remember when the standard class size of 30 presented no problems -- if the teacher knew what he or she was doing. NYM's average elementary class size according to NYSED is about 21 . . . What's wrong with that?
"What happens if the project vote does not pass?
The cost to the district will be devastating over time . . ."
WOW! Devastation, no less!

Don't you love it when they break the taxpayer cost down to monthly amounts? One teacher had a letter to the editor saying it would cost only 13 cents a day! How about the cumulative cost . . . not only over years, but on top of what we are already paying or will pay soon (such as the BOCES expansion approved earlier last year)? And how about the costs to staff the expansion, and heat it, and maintain it?

One useful bit if information in the newsletter is that NYM 2007-08 "Tax on True" is $20.02. While it alleges that it is one of the lowest in the area (comparables are not given), it means that you are already paying over 2% of the true value of your home every year to the school district alone. Add that to the town, county, and village taxes and you will conclude that if you stay in your home about 35 years you will be paying as much to local government as you do for your house.

Now that is DEVASTATION.

The vote is Wednesday, January 23, 2008 7AM - 9PM at the High School.

Friday, January 18, 2008

More on the NYM Factory Debate

Today the O-D Editorial Board weighed in on the NYM factory debate on the side of granting the variance. A New Hartford resident weighed in similarly. Most persons posting on local forums seem to be saying the same things.

However, what is lacking on the part of the OD, the person from New Hartford, and some of the forum posters is a recognition of the fact that the neighbors perceive this variance as being at their own personal expense -- that government is taking something from them.

And the response from government is: . . . . none. The neighbors are completely ignored.

That is wrong.

I support granting a variance because we need the jobs ... but not without giving the affected people something in return in recognition that they are being asked to give up something. Perhaps a small tax break would be in order for properties within 200 feet (the area that would be affected by the variance.)

We need to get beyond the idea that government should step on individuals for the "greater good."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New York State to Deny Services to Homeschoolers

There are many reasons why people home-school their children. Some don't like the bad behavior in the schools and want to shield their children from it. Others oppose the values that are taught in schools, finding them in conflict with their own. Others may object to the immunizations required for school. But most who home-school probably feel that they can provide a superior education at home compared to formal schools. If the prevalence of home schoolers in the National Spelling and Geography Bees is any indication, they may be right.

Regardless of the reasons for home schooling, it is LEGAL; and it is regulated by the state because the state has an interest in ensuring that learning actually takes place.

Of course, there are probably some things offered in the public schools that some parents won't be able to teach at home, such as drivers ed, or auto mechanics. Certainly things like speech or occupational therapy and other "special education" interventions would be beyond the abilities of most parents. Isn't it in the PUBLIC interest to ensure that home schoolers have access to these services like the students attending public and private schools do? What possible public interest would be advanced by denying these services to students who choose to school at home?

Well, that is exactly what New York State intends to do. Take a look at this "Happy New Year" memo out of State Ed.

Unlike the parents of some children in public school who insist that every possible service must be lavished on their little darlings (even to the point of requiring public schools to send their children to special academies for instruction) most home-schoolers ask for little. Why should home-schoolers be denied special education when it is requested? As a taxpayer, I am paying for these services -- and it seems arbitrary to deny them to someone just because they are home schooled.

Perhaps there is a problem with the wording of a statute or a regulation. Perhaps there is a problem with the interpretation of a statute or a regulation. (It appears that the intent of the Federal law to confer a benefit is being thwarted by an overly narrow interpretation and application of state law -- contrary to well-accepted rules of statutory construction.)

Maybe the problem really is an attitude that the government must have primary control over the raising of the next generation. . . and that home-schooled kids are a threat.

Whatever the problem, denial of needed services for home schoolers, just because they are home schoolers, is wrong and needs to be fixed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Inventory!

An interesting article appeared in the OD this morning: "New York Mills debates factory's move from Utica." A company wants to move into the old Bonide plant . . . but a zoning variance (to reduce the separation from residences from 200 feet to 50 feet) will be required.

To be sure, this area, including New York Mills, is desperate for jobs. The company wants to expand from 50 to 100 jobs. Only a handful of property owners would be affected. Aren't they holding up progress? Are they "NIMBYs?"

I don't think so. Haven't we learned our lesson that shoving things down the throats of people who get no benefit is the wrong thing to do?

This is an area that is already developed. Designing buffer zones is likely out of the question.
The zoning law was put there for a reason. What has changed? No one is offering to buy the neighbors out. They should not be expected to sacrifice their property values for "the greater good."

Yesterday it was Ava and the landfill. Today, NYM and a handful of neighbors.

TOMORROW it will be NYRI and all this concern over the factory will be moot.

- - - -
The story is interesting on another level as well. In an accompanying article, we discover that:
The city is taking a city-wide inventory of marketable buildings, including industrial sites on Broad Street, Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Robert Sullivan said.

“You can't sell yourself until you know what you have to sell,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who about a week ago began leading the city's economic development efforts, said Utica will work closely with Mohawk Valley EDGE and Empire State Development Corporation to draw development to Utica.
DUH! They don't have an inventory of marketable buildings? Where was Utica all these years. Worse, what have ESDC and EDGE been doing?

Three levels of "industrial development" agencies, and no one has a regional inventory of marketable buildings.

The incompetence is amazing!

Another UCSD Hare-Brained Scheme . . .

Superintendent Skermont has announced another expensive reorganization/reshuffling of grades in the Utica School System that would allow her to spend big construction bucks.
  • 10 Elementary Schools Grades K-6
  • 2 Middle Schools Grades 7-8. (Donovan, Gen. Herkimer)
  • 1 "9th Grade Academy" (JFK)
  • 1 High School Grades 10-12.
Children need "stability" in their environment. It's tough enough for kids to change schools twice -- but three times?

That's NUTS.

A Step in the Right Direction . . .

After months of waiting, County Clerk DePerno has returned county property records to their place on-line -- the indices at least. While we hope that eventually all public records will be available (with sensitive personal information such as social security numbers redacted), this is a step in the right direction.

Trinkets . . . to Buy Silence?

The Gov was in town today, handing out money. The Stanley Theater will get $2.23 million. Rome will get $2.25 million to clean up a brownfield.

Good Worthy Projects, to be sure. . . . and appreciated . . . BUT . . .

Does anyone really believe that renovating a theater and cleaning up one brownfield will revitalize the regional economy? I don't. Albany's economy has been revitalized by state spending -- but Albany has received $2.2 Billion for two projects alone (and more when others are included) -- and the Albany region economy, because it is the seat of state government, was never sick to begin with. If Albany is the example, it would literally take a $Billion (and probably more) in the Utica/Rome region alone, and multiple $Billions in the other Upstate metro areas to achieve what has been done in Albany. But that kind of money has not been offered. . . . and probably won't be because ... we can't afford it.

New York is near the bottom in job creation. Obviously New York State is doing something very very different from the other states to cause this situation. Where is the analysis of what New York is doing wrong (not that it takes too much to figure out)? Where is there a plan of action to correct the wrongs that New York has done and is doing which drive people and jobs away?

No Where.

But all our legislators and local officials will ooh and ahh over the money being given to them for local projects . . . and probably be on their 'best behavior,' so to speak, to keep the spigot from being turned off. Meantime . . .

None of the real problems get fixed.

Check out the comments under last Thursday's post for my short list of where to start.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Homeland Security: Told 'Ja So . . .

So we are told that the Homeland Security Preparedness Center lags in hiring and training. Hate to say it, but "Told 'Ja So" back in 2005!

The state never made a good faith commitment to this project to begin with . . . and it appeared to be the result of political maneuvering to take the old OC Airport off the County's hands and keep it from ever competing with the new airport.

Mr. Picente would sell the old OC Airport if he could but he had to settle for a lease which, in my opinion, is a disaster.

The fact that today's classes are taking place at Utica College (which has had success in contrast with the center's failure) tells me that then-Mayor Julian's lobbying for the center to be next door to UC on the grounds of the State Hospital in west Utica was correct ... but the County got in the way.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"I Want, I Want, I Want" . . .but What Do We Need?

Put together a pot of (our) money, and the politicians will find a way to blow it on their pet projects (and buy votes). That seems to be the real plan behind Gov. Spitzer's plan to revitalize Upstate.
“Together, we must enact this $1 billion Upstate Revitalization Fund and create an upstate whose best days aren't behind it but are ahead of it,” Spitzer said.
Nice words -- but no substance.
Every region in upstate will receive funding, said Daniel Gunderson, whom Spitzer appointed as upstate development czar. Funding will be allocated based on Regional Blueprints designed in meetings across upstate and will be specific to each region, Gunderson said.
This "Regional Blueprint" idea is a crock.

"Regional Blueprints" which are "specific to each region" sounds like "Pork Barrel" to me -- designed to keep some certain politicians in office. And "allocation" sounds like some regions will be winners, and some will be losers, based on politics . . . Like the Albany area has been a winner (to the tune of $Billions of OUR money) while the rest of us eat dirt.

Oh, sure, there are some projects that might be important to particular localities. There are the industrial parks and other pet projects. You can read the local list of "I Wants" in the OD Article. Some of the spending on local water and sewer systems is likely to make up for LOCAL failures in maintenance, to cure downright violations of the law, and to continue policies that encourage urban sprawl (upping regional maintenance costs). That hardly sounds like the kind of behavior that should be rewarded.

The point that the plan appears to miss is that most of Upstate west of Schenectady shares in the same malaise. That so many communities are in the same boat should tell us that it is State Policy (not local) that has caused the problems. . . . and that a $1Billion spending plan is like a $1Billion aspirin: it may provide some symptom relief, but does not get to the heart of the problem.

Because the plan does not address the systemic problems that are driving jobs and people out of Upstate, all this plan will accomplish is to give us a bigger hole to dig out of.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Albany Envy . . .

A series of articles appeared in the last couple days in the Buffalo News describing the transformation that has taken place in the Capital District economy . . . all at the considerable expense of and subsidy by us New York State Taxpayers everywhere.

While the articles suggest that the rotted communities west of Schenectady are "jealous," I think it is more frustration . . . frustration at a State Government that concentrates tons of our money into a handful of communities at the behest of certain political leaders, rather than spending the money on projects that will help all of Upstate be competitive --- such as making the Thruway Free.

What has taken place is not economic development. It is taking from all and giving to a few. This style of government needs to end.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kicking Upstate in the Assets

Well "they" did it again. "They" being the Thruway Authority which increased tolls another 10% last night. "They" being our do-nothing state legislators who failed to introduce legislation to cut the legs out from the Thruway Authority by doing away with its existence. "They" being our Mohawk Valley mayors, county executives, city/town/village/county legislative bodies and EDGE officials (communities for which the Thruway is the only interstate alternative) who failed to raise their voices from their bully pulpits in protest. "They" being the editorial staffs of our local newspapers who can complain about a governor not delivering jobs, but who failed to demand one specific thing that could help create them: removal of the tolls and dismantlement of the Thruway Authority.

Upstate's assets are what made it once competitive: Cheap Transportation, Cheap Hydropower, and abundant water. (Read Edward Glaeser's "Can Buffalo Ever Come Back" for a good explanation of our past.) So when Albany taxes our transportation, sends the "cheap" hydropower down state, and creates agencies that mismanage our water, what does that do for Upstate's competitiveness?

Let's focus on transportation. I am no fan of potential integration of the US, Canada and Mexico into a "North American Union," and replacing US manufacturing with a transportation network for overseas goods. If that is going to happen, however, then transportation will be king and transportation-related endeavors will generate jobs -- lots of them.

Why cannot Upstate, and Utica-Rome in particular, given its prime location between the population centers of the East Coast, Mid West and Southern Canada, remake itself into an "inland port?" Griffiss with its long runways and location away from congested flight areas would be its prime asset.

No . . . It will not be possible because we have accepted policies that turn Upstate, and the Mohawk Valley in particular, into a Transportation Backwater. That is exactly what the Thruway Tolls do.

And that is exactly why they need to be done away with.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Water Summit?

Sen. Griffo is trying to organize a meeting of the water suppliers in Herkimer, Oneida and Madison Counties to (per the O-D) "examine how to best address regional water needs and ensure water is available for drinking, developing the economy and recreation activities."

Oneida County Executive Picente reacted: "Anything that can be done to improve the understanding of water availability in the area and possibly result in a better job of working together to supply the water is a positive."

I am sure that Mr. Griffo means well.

But while a confab of water purveyors might be a good "networking" opportunity, like putting a bunch of teenagers together in a group and expecting them to teach themselves, it really is not the best way to learn about our water supplies. That comes from "cracking the books." And the first "book to crack" on this topic should be:

New York State Department of Health
Project CPWS-47
Herkimer-Oneida Counties, New York

Herkimer and Oneida Counties
Comprehensive Public Water Supply Study
November 1968
Malcolm Pirnie Engineers.

Available at your local county planning department.

Any discussion of regional water supply needs must use this document as a starting place.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hinckley Workgroup Whitewash

Last fall Greater Utica lived through the worst water crisis in memory. In fact, it was the ONLY water crisis in memory because, for the first time, our use of water was restricted. Water level in the reservoir sunk perilously close to the intake level. And yet, weather conditions surely did not seem all that unusual. Yes, it was drier than normal, but it was nothing compared to the 1963-1964 drought which went on for months -- when lawns everywhere were brown --- but when there was no water crisis. That was a time when water use in Greater Utica was greater because we had more people and a lot of water-using industries. That was also a time when traffic on the Canal was greater.

So our recent water crisis appears to have been someone's screw up.

We, the public, were led to believe that the Governor's Hinckley Reservoir Working Group would tell us what went wrong. . . . Don't bet on it.

Abundantly clear from its "Interim Report to the Governor," the screw up is being given a whitewash.

The interim report, while interesting for its collection of various facts and figures, tell us nothing that we did not already know.
In the summer and fall of 2007, Hinckley Reservoir water levels were well below normal for that time of the year. In September 2007, the Mohawk Valley Water Authority (MVWA), Oneida County and the NYSDOH raised concerns about the continued operation of the drinking water supply. By mid-September reservoir water levels were at a historic low for September and declining due to lack of precipitation and continued reservoir releases. The Hinckley Reservoir, which is the sole source of water for approximately 130,000 people, was reported to be at 17% of capacity. [p. 3/27]
Following the above quote we then are given a history of the responses. But No Where are we told HOW the reservoir was permitted to get as low as it did.

The outline for the Final Report (due in March), Appendix 6, is not clear that we will ever be told exactly what went wrong. Of course, this is what is expected when the foxes are put in charge of the hen house. The Working Group is an "insiders group" composed exclusively of government agencies who have direct control of what goes on at Hinckley, and who can, and have, used an exemption under the Freedom of Information Law to keep its written communications from the public. Affected private interests were deliberately kept out of the group. Certain legislators have called for a truly independent study of what went on, but these legislators appear to have been marginalized.

At best, this group will produce a communication scheme that the agencies will use to prevent a crisis from happening again. At worst, the group will make a lot of recommendations regarding water supply use and economic development issues and promote agendas that have nothing to do with preventing what happened last fall.

It would be a breath of fresh air if we are told what really went wrong.