But it being Shandaken, the Watershed Corporation officials ended up getting harangued by a small crowd of angry Phoenicia residents that fear the agency is acting as an agent for the City of New York, and say they don’t want such an entity involved in their lives. They’d rather keep their septic systems, and commercial development in the hamlet where it currently is.
CWC has been hired by the town to design a plan for the best way to treat wastewater in the Phoenicia hamlet. The regional agency, funded through city monies but run by elected officials from throughout the watershed area, sent Executive Director Alan Rosa, attorney Timothy Cox and engineer Henry Lamont to field questions. But the three men, who have been responsible for the building of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of wastewater treatment plants throughout the region, found that most of their time was taken up addressing their connections to the Big Apple.
One resident reminded Rosa that more than half of Phoenicia voters turned down a sewer plan a few years ago, and said she thought it was “interesting” that CWC is funded by the same entity that is putting up the money to build a system in Phoenicia. Others said they felt there was a fix in, and that all that would end up happening would be a revisit to the plan rejected by a small majority of residents in 2007.
Lamont, the engineer currently in charge of such projects for CWC, disagreed. He said that he was contracted to review all plans and only recommend one that fit the community’s wishes, including its need to fit within the city’s offered budget with as little future operations and management costs being taken up locally as possible.
A handful of residents on hand at the meeting, however, demonstrated that a level of distrust persists by asking repeatedly that the town hire an attorney to act as an advisor to Phoenicia residents during the process about to begin.
That request, which states that “residents of the proposed wastewater project area in the Hamlet of Phoenicia have concerns over the ability of the Town Board to disseminate information from the CWC,” was tabled after long debate. Board members Doris Bartlett and Jack Jordan joined Supervisor Robert Stanley in voting to table, while Councilmen Vince Bernstein and Tim Malloy said they were ready to proceed and hire an attorney.
Explaining his vote, Jordan said “We don’t even know what we would want an attorney to do, or even if we need one.” The Town of Shandaken lists attorney Paul Kellar as its chief counsel.
Mike Riccardella, the Phoenicia Businessman who has led the fight against a city sewer deal, tried to explain why he thought a watchdog would be a good deal. He noted that even though the City appears committed to paying most of the cost of running the system, with the CWC promising over 90 percent of future O&M costs, his own review of the proposed contract between the City and Phoenicia contained “loopholes” that could allow the City to change that amount.
Ricciardella said he was afraid a new sewer could cripple the handful of businesses in the hamlet because they would be the ones to pick up any slack in such costs.
Ricciardella has owned the only dinner restaurants and bars along the community’s Main Street ever since the Phoenicia Hotel burned a couple of years ago, and has been unable to rebuild because of the lack of a municipal sewer system.++