As a result of discussions with New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) regarding their withdrawal of financial and technical assistance for the proposed Phoenicia wastewater project, Shandaken supervisor Rob Stanley said both agencies “are adamant that there will be no further progress on this issue.”
He made the announcement at the town board meeting on Monday, July 2, reading from a prepared statement and remarking, “Although we are dismayed at the DEP’s hard-line tactic concerning this issue, it is apparent to those of us that have been dealing with this issue over the past few years that the current proposal was not financially acceptable.”
The DEP withdrew its support for the project in June, after the town board tabled a decision on scheduling a public hearing for a referendum to create a sewer district, thereby failing to meet a critical deadline in the planning process. The board’s request to the DEP for an extension was denied.
In his statement on Monday, Stanley reiterated the board’s reservations about calling a referendum on a project whose costs were not fully established, despite “comments made to the local papers by CWC executive director Alan Rosa, elaborating that definitive costs would not and could not be available to the Town until the project went out for construction bids.”
Nevertheless, the board felt that with the referendum having failed once, several years ago, they could not realistically expect to get approval from the public on a project whose costs were unclear. Stanley continued, “We do not feel it right to ask our residents to make, in essence, their best uninformed decision…The mis-information super-highway has derailed previous attempts on this issue, and the Town Board felt that these details MUST be made available for the public to make the right decision for themselves.”
He added that no other watershed town has had to contemplate raising extra funds for the full buildout of their sewer system. With $1.9 million of the $17.7 million DEP block grant for Phoenicia spent on engineering design over the last 15 years, the remaining $15.8 million would cover sewers for only the Main Street area, not the outlying sections of the current water district.
Stanley concluded, “No one in the entire Town is against sewers, merely in favor of an informed and educated public given the proper information concerning an issue that will affect them and generations to come.”