Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is Fair is a Matter of Perspective . . .

OD: New Hartford may handle own sewer repairs 

Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski may not sign on to Oneida County’s plan to fix the area’s $158 million sewer problem.
Instead, he said he is looking into whether New Hartford should do its own repairs — estimated by the county to cost about $26 million — because he fears sewer users there would pay more than their fair share if the town works with the county. . .
In January, county sewer officials asked that sewer users along the line pay a $1.05 surcharge per 1,000 gallons of water used in 2010, in addition to their regular bill to start covering the repair costs.
The town of New Hartford was the only municipality not to sign on to the plan. Instead, the Town Board opted to pay the equivalent amount of about $500,000 out of a town sewer account.
Yet Tyksinski said the repairs scheduled for this year amount to between $200,000 and $300,000.
“What about the extra $250,000 to $300,000 we have contributed?” he said. “They couldn’t give me an answer. They said the rates would be adjusted. When? They couldn’t tell me.”
Devan defended his plan and said in the end, all the municipalities would pay for their own repairs.

Mr. Tyksinski is doing the absolute correct thing for the residents of New Hartford, although from a Regional perspective, New Hartford should be on the hook for paying for *more* than repairing its own sewers. The illegal sewer connections that brought about the Consent Order made possible New Hartford's vast development. But because of these connections, residents of OTHER jurisdictions which did not create the problems (such as area Villages and Utica) are now forced to pay for repairs to their systems, or to the overall County system, that otherwise they might not have had to make.

The county could not give Tyksinski an answer about the extra 250-300K because the County has no answer. It is groping along with an implied goal of being fair to all municipalities, but with no idea of how to achieve it.

The cause of the County's dilemma is the manner in which the sewer system was organized from the beginning: as a part-county district overlaying many municipalities.

Supplying sewer services to Utica and area villages should be economical because of their greater population densities. In contrast, residents in unincorporated places in the Towns, because they are at greater distances from the population center and are often spread further apart due to larger lots, need more pipes to be connected. Those residents should be paying more in sewer fees to reflect the greater infrastructure needed to supply services to them. However, because everyone has been paying the same rates, residents in the city and villages, in effect, have been subsidizing services to the Towns -- and subsidizing Town growth. Since the town's growth in tax base does not result in money flowing back to the city and villages, the system is 'rigged' to promote more growth in outlying areas, expansion of infrastructure beyond what the regional population can sustain, and, ultimately, higher expenses for everyone.

Only a wholesale reorganization of local government can fix the inequalities. Until that happens, municipal officials need to do what is best for their own residents.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Their are many other instances under which the ciites both directly and indirectly subsidize other areas of the county. And, the county contributes directly to city facilities and functions that are rarely or sparsely used by non city rsidents. The impact of the former is far greater than the latter. There are several basic problems. They include, 1. No city leader seesmto be able to articulate a proper message or approach to righting what has amounted to regional finacial and development bias.2.We have two many units of governemnt doing too many things and costing too much money. Yet, the voter/taxpayer seem content with the status quo.3.Our business community which should be leading a reform effort with money, plans and positions is silent.