Shandaken supervisor Rob Stanley expressed disappointment with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), not only for pulling the remaining $15.8 million in funding for the proposed Phoenicia sewer but also for failing to respond to any of the concerns Stanley noted in his request for an extension on the timeframe for the project’s development.
The DEP’s letter of June 1, notifying Stanley that they were dropping the project after 15 years of trying to get a Phoenicia sewer system into the ground, caught the town board by surprise and caused widespread dismay.
“As much as the DEP is decrying that all these other communities are taking this deal,” said Stanley, “I don’t think they’re aware that what’s being offered to Phoenicia is different. In other communities, the DEP paid in full to build the entire collection system and plant. In Phoenicia, the DEP is only offering to build the plant and service to the Main Street area, the commercial area, with outlying areas to be built with a grant or loan that the town would have to get for $8.8 million.”
The resultant financial arrangements would put an excessive burden on business owners to pay for operation and maintenance, said Stanley, since many of the residential members of the district are located in the area not covered by the city’s funding.
Furthermore, to reach the outlying areas, sewer lines would have to cross the Bridge Street bridge, which was recently reopened after being closed for nine months due to damage from Hurricane Irene. Stanley asked the city to address concerns about the safety of having the sewer lines on the bridge.
On June 11, he received a letter from Ulster County’s Department of Public Works, stating that the bridge is in danger of being damaged beyond repair unless gravel is dredged from the streambed along that stretch of the Esopus River. “What happens when the bridge goes out with the sewer line over it?” asked Stanley. “The city has showed a complete disregard to the issues related to Phoenicia. They want to carbon copy these systems for different towns.”
Given that Phoenicia voters turned down a sewer system five years ago due to uncertainties about the financial implications, Stanley and the town board felt that it was risky to present another referendum within the time limits imposed by the agreement with DEP, when there were still financial issues to be resolved. “All we did was ask for a short extension to hammer out these details,” said Stanley. “Do we want voters informed, or kept in the dark, with suspicion and innuendo?”