Residents of the Oneida County Sewer District woke up this morning to Sticker Shock on the cost of compliance with the DEC Consent Order.
While the Observer-Dispatch notes that the Town of New Hartford tops the list in terms of absolute costs, less obvious is the potentially ruinous impact to the residents of Villages when their smaller populations are taken into consideration. This becomes apparent when per capita costs are calculated. The Village-Town split is quite striking, even in the New Hartfords where the per capita cost in the Town is less than one-half of the cost in the Village.
The per capita calculations for Village Residents, however, could turn out to be conservative when you consider that Village Residents are also Town Residents and could be made to pick up the per capita costs of their Towns as well -- like they already do for things like highway maintenance and storm water management. Conceivably, the per capita cost in the Village of New Hartford could wind up being $4255 (the sum of the per capita Village and Town costs)!
Let's add insult to injury by considering how these costs were incurred: the violations of the law which led to a Consent Order. The law was violated when separated sanitary waste lines -- PRIMARILY IN THE TOWNS -- were connected to a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) which made the CSO illegal. The CSO was previously permitted to exist to accomodate the Villages' combined sewer systems. Now that it is illegal, it is the Villages who are forced to pay. But who benefitted from the illegal sewer connections? Mainly the Towns which greatly expanded their tax bases.
The OC Sewer District Advisory Committee will be making recommendations in a few days on how to pay for this mess, so it will be interesting to see how much cost shifting there will be from the "guilty" to "innocent" parties. If the past is any indication, Uticans could get stuck with paying for some of this.