Friday, December 28, 2012

An EDGEy Land Proposal . . .

Buried in the 12/26/12 Co-Leg communications packet was this letter from EDGE, proposing to purchase almost 83 acres from Oneida County at a "minimum" $10K/acre for use as a Business Park Extension at the old County Airport site in Whitestown. EDGE proposes to subdivide and resell the property, remit on resale an additional $5K/acre to the County (less sales expenses), and keep any difference in price (i.e., between the resale price and the $15K/acre total paid to the County) for use in building roads and other infrastructure needed at the Business Park extension. The letter indicates that EDGE has a prospective buyer for a portion of the property.

I'm not sure how "good" a deal this is for the County, but I am troubled that publicly owned property is being sold by an entity (EDGE) that is controlled by its "members" rather than the government itself.

More troubling is the statement that "additional economic development funding is required to meet the requirements for extension of water and sewer lines, construction of an access road and, because of the Consent Order, the purchase of sewer credits to enable the company to locate here."

Sounds to me like the taxpayers (or water and sewer ratepayers) are going to be soaked again to finance more sprawl.

What's your take?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sewer District Sleight of Hand!

While eyes watch Oneida County's Right Hand shift suburban sprawl's sewer compliance costs on to all Sewer District Users (over half of whom are Utica residents), is the Left Hand shifting County NanoCenter sewer costs on to all Sewer District Users (over half of whom are Utica residents)?

The documents embedded at left are preparatory to an almost $12 million "North Utica Parallel Interceptor" project (Cap. Proj. "HG-479") which will cost the "typical" Sewer District property owner $6.70 per year to finance almost $7 million in borrowing ($5 million allegedly will come from a grant secured by EDGE -- which hints at the purpose of the project).  Interestingly, the draft resolution provides neither a project description nor an explanation why this project is needed.

Embedded at right is the Short Environmental Assessment form for "HG-479" that indicates that the project involves  upgrading of 9,300 feet of 30" sanitary sewer with 42" sanitary sewer from Rt 12 at 790 to the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) on Leland Ave. Again, no description of the need for this project is provided, but our legislators will be voting their approval in January.

Interestingly, just before Christmas the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council's 11/2011 Strategic Plan was in the news, which plan seems to place undue emphasis on the Marcy Nanocenter considering that the "Mohawk Valley" region here is truly "Mohawk Valley" -- at least the portion stretching from Rome to Amsterdam. (This will be the subject of a separate blog post).  It is mentioned here because stated at pages 161-2 (reproduced at left) is a "Priority Project: Marcy Nanocenter at SUNYIT Upgrade County Interceptor" which will replace 9,350 feet of 24" and 30" sewer pipe with new 36" pipe from Edic and River Roads to the STP on Leland Ave.   Sounds similar to the N Utica Interceptor project, n'est-ce pas?

It certainly looks like all Sewer District Users (over half of whom are Utica residents), such as the Shmoes of New Hartford with 10 kids and lots of laundry, will not only be paying to have their sewage transported and treated, they will also be paying for the sewer infrastructure at the NanoCenter site.  Awfully nice of the OC Legislators from Rome, Camden, Boonville, Ava, Westmoreland, etc., to foist the cost of their NanoCenter "economic development" dreams onto the backs of all Sewer District Users (over half of whom are Utica residents), rather than County taxpayers,  but it should be no surprise because the same MO was attempted (and probably will be used) to extend water service to Verona.

Read the pages beyond the Short Environmental Assessment form above.  There seems to be more "sleight of hand" going on with another, much more expensive, sewer district proposal also on tap for January just to add to the (intentional?) confusion. More on that later.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

They Might As Well Be From Camden . . .

The Utica representatives on the Oneida County Board of Legislators, that is. Oneida County legislators approve hike in sewer rates
 If you are connected to the Oneida County Sewer District system, your bill is going to go up 13 percent in 2013. . . . 
The Oneida County Board of Legislators approved the new rates Wednesday at its regular meeting. . . 
The legislation passed the full Board unanimously.
Why do I single out Utica legislators?
The change is linked to the 2007 state Department of Conservation consent order that threatened to block development along the Sauquoit Creek line if certain repairs were not made.
The Consent Order was the end result of all the "growth" in New Hartford.  So now UTICA residents are forced to pay to improve County facilities to foster more surburban "growth." But where is the County allowing its facilities to be used to help Utica solve its storm water problem?

When will Mr. Trevisani, Mr. Paparella, Mr. Welsh, Ms. Speciale, Ms. Convertino, Mr. Caruso, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Furgol start representing Utica's interests?  

They might as well be from Camden!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Effluent of the Affluent - Part 2

Two weeks ago it was pointed out that the residents of Utica were about to have it stuck to them again by Oneida County tapping them to pay to increase the size of the County's sewage treatment facilities to accommodate suburban storm water flows while being left to take care of Utica's storm water problem without county help.

As can be seen from the two pieces of legislation embedded at left, the County Legislature "rubber stamp" is alive and well, approving the legislation almost unanimously.  Of course, NONE of this was reported in the Observer-Dispatch.

The OD did report on Utica's sewer repairs a few days ago in the story "First phase of Utica's sewer project is complete." No mention here of any help from Oneida County.  The only mention of Oneida County's sewer work is the statement that "Oneida County is under a state order to do the exact same thing." This leaves the impression of two separate units of government working independently to solve their problems -- leaving out the part that residents of Utica are being forced to pay for both.


This blogger attempted to engage legislators Ms. Speciale, Mr. Davis, Mr. D'Onofrio and Mr. Gordon -- as well as certain "big mouths" on the City Council -- on this issue days before the vote, but only Ms. Speciale had the courtesy to respond -- after the legislation was voted upon.

Typical!  And we wonder why the region declines.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Excuses, Excuses . . .

Clinton won't testify on Benghazi due to illness

First wine-tasting in Australia -- and now this.

For someone who should have been on the first plane home to testify after Gen. Petraeus regarding the death of 4 Americans on her watch, this is looking more and more like a delaying tactic and a cover-up.

What did she know and when did she know it? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Obamacare: Killing Local Jobs?

Washington Examiner: Democrats urge delay for ‘job-killing’ Obamacare tax

Sixteen Democratic senators who voted for the Affordable Care Act are asking that one of its fundraising mechanisms, a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices scheduled to take effect January 1, be delayed. . . . The senators, who made the request in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are . . . Charles Schumer, . . . Kirsten Gillibrand . . . All voted for Obamacare


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hidden in Plain Sight . . .

My Pet Peeve!!!

The Greater Utica-Rome Board of Realtors announces name change to . . .  what else? . . . the "Mohawk Valley Association of Realtors"

Google "Mohawk Valley, NY" on Google Maps and it takes you to "Mohawk Valley Airport" in Scotia.  
Search "Mohawk Valley, NY" on Bing Maps and you are taken to "Mohawk Valley Estate" in Fultonville.  
Search for a zip or area code in "Mohawk Valley, NY" on Switchboard and you get taken to Mojave Valley, AZ!

The best results come from Mapquest. Search "Mohawk Valley, NY" there and you are taken to a map with 9 bubbles in places stretching from Rome to Albany.

The Greater Utica-Rome Board of Realtors website dropdowns do not list St. Johnsville, Canajoharie, Fonda or Fultonville, Florida, Tribes Hill, Amsterdam, Scotia or Schenectady -- all of which are in the Mohawk Valley.

People can find Utica.  People can find Rome. "Greater" Utica-Rome means places near by.  And the Utica-Rome Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area is defined as Oneida and Herkimer Counties. I don't understand the problem some people have with identifying our region by the names of its two principal cities.

Calling the Utica-Rome area "Mohawk Valley" makes as much sense as calling Binghamton-Endicott-Johnson City (a/k/a "Greater Binghamton") the "Susquehanna Valley." If you were looking for a house in the Binghamton area, would you look to do business with a "Susquehanna Valley"  realty company?  In Binghamton they have common sense . . . but not here.

One would think that REALTORS, of all people, would know better than to hide themselves on a map.      

Monday, December 10, 2012

LibraryGate . . .

The OD has an editorial today: Our view: New Hartford library board must try again

It made me wonder what New Hartford Online has been up to.

Looks like Cathy has been up to her eyeballs in e-mails from New Hartford Town Library Trustees ... FOILed e-mails that is ... and many are the kind that certain trustees and officials won't be too happy to have meet the public's eye.  New Hartford Online is posting some of the juicier ones, some juxtaposed with what was coming out contemporaneously in the newspaper.

Probably most shocking was : "He was not aware that he was on camera and being videoed..." Where the library director acknowledges videotaping a library trustee (who came to review records) without his knowledge.

There's more of the Library Board e-mail expose posted at New Hartford Online and it's my understanding that a LOT more is coming.

The shenanigans of our elite running a small town library makes some pretty interesting reading ... and makes one wonder how long will town residents put up with it?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

I thought this was an interesting video. I've always enjoyed Ms. Gabriel on Fox, but this is the first time I've heard her speak free of the question-answer-comment constraints. For balance here is an article about her from the NY Times.

Interestingly, here's an article published yesterday on the same topic from another prominent American writer of Lebanese-Christian heritage, Joseph Farah, of WorldNetDaily: What Muslim-Americans really believe.

Recently The Blaze TV covered the subject in a documentary called "The Project" (use the free trial to watch if you are not a subscriber).

As American products of the great "Melting Pot" we must not allow ourselves to become xenophobic -- but we cannot afford to be be naive, either... The stakes are too high.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Public Hearing Sham . . . .

Palmieri's downtown Utica plan raises concerns about median, parking

The plan would go a long way toward revitalizing downtown and bringing more businesses to the area, but there still are details to be worked out, Palmieri said.“We’re taking an opportunity to move the city forward,” he said. “Nothing is carved in stone.” . . . 
Paul Balzano, owner of Nicolas Jewelers on Genesee Street, asked if the median was an absolute necessity.“Do we have to do this?” he asked.  If the city gets the federal grant it will have to proceed with the median because it was written into the application, Palmieri said.
"Nothing is carved in stone,"  but  Utica " will have to proceed with the median because it was written into the application."  So. either the median is "nothing" or the mayor was trying to deceive the public when he said "Nothing" is carved in stone.  

What's the purpose of public hearings if the application is already written?

I'm in favor of the city getting as many grants as possible -- but not for the "pet projects" of some obviously "connected"  individuals who feel that they know more than everyone else and devise plans for spending taxpayer money and changing the city environment out of the public's view and without genuine public input.

Here's a novel idea:  Get public input BEFORE applying for the grant!

Frankly, as much as Genesee needs a remake and the sewers need work, I hope the City loses this grant.  It is poorly conceived, will make downtown difficult to navigate, and is being shoved down the throats of those with the most to lose - the people with businesses on Genny. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Effluent of the Affluent . . .

... Becomes the responsibility of the indigent -- at least in Oneida County!

According to the notice of public hearing at left, the County Legislature is considering an
"increase and improvement of the facilities of the Oneida County Sewer District in said County . . . to fix various problems concerned with the wet weather overflows from the Sauquoit Creek Pumping Station . . ." 
The "problems" to be fixed were caused when sanitary sewer lines from massive new suburban developments were connected to the County's combined sewer overflow at the pumping station. The suburban officials who approved the developments, and the county officials who approved the connections, either knew or should have known that the connections were illegal -- but they allowed them anyway, making suburban growth possible.  Now that they got "caught" and have to fix the problem, because facilities "of the Oneida County Sewer District" are being improved, all customers of the sewer district -- roughly half of whom are Utica residents -- are being forced to pay the cost.

While seemingly "small potatoes" at only a $3 annual cost per family, this is only the most recent example of how residents of Utica are being required to support suburban "growth" while the tax base of their own City shrivels and their taxes soar.

Suburban jurisdictions get Sewer District help in taking care of their wet-weather overflows, but, as indicated in an 11/15/2006 letter from the County Water Pollution Control Commissioner to the DEC, Utica will not be permitted to send its wet-weather overflows to the County treatment plant. As pointed out here five years ago, Utica is being left on its own.

County Legislators from New Hartford (and other places where the illegal hookups were made)  might be forgiven for approving this plan because their constituents benefit.  Those from Utica, however, need to take notice of this cost-shift and either speak out and vote against it, or demand that as part of the deal the Sewer District provide similar aid to Utica in solving the city's overflow problem (as recommended years ago by the DEC).

Owing to the way the Sewer District was set up, almost half of the County Legislators who will vote on this proposal represent areas that are unaffected. Rather than merely "rubber stamp" what county administrators have proposed, I ask that they take a serious look at the results of such policies: more "growth" in suburban areas (because it is subsidized) and decline in Utica (because that is where the subsidy comes from).  More suburban growth is planned, making solution of the problem even more pressing.  Increasing the County's urbanized acreage while its population declines means that the average costs of all local services must go up.  This helps to explain why Oneida County is one of the most heavily taxed counties in the nation when calculated as a percentage of real property value. Continuing such policies can only lead to more regional decline.

The Mayor and City Officials should not ignore this as a "County" or "Sewer District" issue because the costs of living and doing business within the City, and the City's ability to pay its bills, are directly impacted.        

Change the plan so that only the areas receiving the benefits pay for them


12/04/12 Update:  There is apparently an impression among some legislators that (1) the County is under a Consent Order to increase the amount of water that the County Facility can take in and treat and (2)   that the Towns of New Hartford and Whitestown will bear the costs of the plan.  

With regard to No. (1), expansion of the sewage treatment plant capacity is an option that the County has chosen to stop spilling raw sewage into the river and bring itself to compliance with the Consent Order, but it is not the only option.  DEC is only interested in stopping the spillage and not a plant expansion.  So to imply that the county is under an order to expand the plant is deceiving the public. Now that the big storm water leaks have been plugged, it is probably cheaper to increase the size of the county's treatment plant in Utica to accommodate the remaining suburban storm water in the system rather than remove it.  But make no mistake, any plant expansion is strictly to solve the suburban problem because, as noted above, the county has already stated it would not accommodate such flows from Utica.    

Which brings us to No. (2):  If the costs are going to be borne solely by New Hartford and Whitestown, why does the Legal Notice (above) and the proposed legislation (left on page 2)  talk about annual costs to families "in said Sewer District" or "in said District"?  And why does the Bond resolution (left at p.6)  state that "There shall be annually apportioned and assessed upon the several lots and parcels of land within said District, in the manner provided by law, an amount sufficient to pay the principal and interest on said bonds as the same become due . . . " (bold supplied)? There is nothing to qualify that the responsible parties will be limited to New Hartford and Whitestown.  If the County intends for the costs to be born solely by New Hartford and Whitestown, the legislation and legal notice have not been drafted that way.  As written now, Utica residents will be made to pay for this.