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Public meeting on proposed sewer districts contentious, informative

North Lake Road resident Claudia Johnson, center holding microphone, asked the town board to explain the benefits to lakeside residents of creating a modern sewer and water district with a multi-million-dollar price tag. Johnson was one of multiple people who spoke at the Jan. 24 public meeting.

North Lake Road resident Claudia Johnson, center holding microphone, asked the town board to explain the benefits to lakeside residents of creating a modern sewer and water district with a multi-million-dollar price tag. Johnson was one of multiple people who spoke at the Jan. 24 public meeting. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— The contentious issue of the formation of new sewer districts around Cazenovia Lake remained contentious last week during a public information meeting attended by more than 100 people at which voices were raised, tempers flared and vast amounts of information was given.

The Jan. 24 meeting, held in the Cazenovia High School auditorium, offered concerned and curious lakeside residents an opportunity to question the town board, town attorney and town engineer on the particulars of the proposed plan to improve the water quality of the lake by creating multiple sewer districts and thereby eliminating individual septic systems in lakeside neighborhoods.

Numerous questions were posed to the assembled town officials regarding the proposed project’s underpinnings, intentions, specific location(s), legality and, above all, cost — with many residents concerned that the total preliminary $8 million price tag will not only multiply their taxes but ultimately make their homes so unaffordable they will be forced to move.

After two-and-a-half hours of discussion, the town board’s bottom line response was that the ultimate decision to construct new sewer districts was entirely up to the residents themselves. Under the decided-on process, the residents must submit a petition to create the new districts and in that petition they can limit the parameters of the sewer districts to whatever they want. The town board from there then will decide if the project is even feasible.

“Our only concern here is for the health and welfare of the lake,” said Town Councilor Pat Race, who acted as moderator of the meeting. “There’s no back-door deals, no hidden agenda, no conflict of interest. If we don’t act the DEC will not let us just keep dumping chemicals into the lake.”

Background

The town board, village trustees, and sewer district officials have been investigating the costs and feasibility of extending sewers into areas of the shoreline. Town Engineer John Dunkle, with Dunn & Sgromo, was tasked in early 2012 with identifying appropriate technologies and costs associated with extending sewers into un-sewered areas. Many shoreline residents responded to an opinion survey last spring. Based on this input, and discussions with the village, Dunkle expanded the scope of his efforts to include supplying public water in addition to sewers into certain areas.

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