In a very short time, much “change” has happened in our country, our state and our town, and many are unsure of the direction we, as a community, are headed. It is time to get a handle on just what these policies mean to us, and decide, using common sense, what we as a community plan to do. Should we bury our heads in the sand, smile and remain ignorant? Go along to get along? Or should we take a stand against legislation that is harmful and unhealthy to this town by becoming educated about the policies that are governing our community? Can Saugerties successfully take back what was once ours? Do we understand that what happens at the local level can influence the direction of state policies and dictate our future? Policies that are passed by the local town government are often done under the radar without our knowledge by our own community leaders, both elected by us and those appointed without any election process. Do you know that there are non-elected boards, such as the Comprehensive Plan Committee, who make decisions that affect you and your private property? The consequences of their decisions often go undetected until years later when they resonate through the community and fuel further government control at a higher level. But sometimes we feel the effects immediately.
Many of you may remember me from the smart meter debate. Remember when our own board members forced “smart water meters” on the residents of Glasco? I wrote to Saugerties Times to help residents just like you understand the implications of this bad decision made by our Town Board without public input. My intent was to alert residents of the danger of these devices and the inflated bills that were soon to follow. Some heeded my advice and refused the meters, seriously safeguarding their health and pocketbooks. But others allowed installation of the meters, even ridiculed me, suggesting that I don a tin foil hat. I saw the humor in that comment, chuckled, and almost wore one at Zombie Fest, just to let you all know that I have a sense of humor and was not flustered. I bided my time, knowing that those who were quick to mock would soon be shamefully wearing a dunce cap.
Fast forward to March when the bills came in two months late due to a computer glitch from the new smart meter company. I warned that the meters would increase your bill by overcharging usage, and lo and behold, compliant residents saw their water bill skyrocket. After interviewing several town residents, the word on the street was an unwelcome and unexpected increase in their bills following smart meter installations, even after factoring in the extra time.
One of my neighbors lamented that he unknowingly allowed installation before my warning came out. He did not hear about the problems with these new smart meters in time to refuse it. Once he became aware of the possibility that the family’s water bill would increase after installation of this newfangled meter, they purposely conserved water to try to offset the price hike. Despite their conservation efforts he still saw a significant increase in his bill and felt it unjust, although he did not share with me any dollar amounts. Another neighbor stated that his bill increased by almost $200 as compared to the previous billing period, going from $375 to a whopping $548 for the six-month time. He stated that he felt there are fluctuations in his bill from time to time, but certainly not close to a $200 increase. Once his smart meter was installed in October, he was certain that the inflated bill was due to the new meter overcharging for his family’s typical water use. Another neighbor attributed any increase to the fact that it was two months late, and after factoring the late bill, he felt the charges were “about the same.” A good chuckle was had over the Glasco smart meter that was installed backwards, generating a water bill in excess of $10,000! These examples reveal just how unreliable this new “smart” water meter company actually is, and how important it is for the townspeople to get involved before the board has a chance to impose these crazy measures behind our backs. Just wait till the health problems surface. I really hate to say, “I told you so.” Instead I’ll just say, “Go sit in the corner with your tin foil dunce cap on, Johnny, and don’t get out of your seat until you start to understand that I am not here to mislead you, I am here to help you!”
And that is why I am writing this column. It is time to take back our town and stop allowing others to make important decisions for us. It is time to be in the know about the important issues that directly affect us, and what we can do to stop all this government interference. Are you insulted that our elected officials find it necessary to influence every aspect of our lives? Once they gain control it becomes that much more difficult to reclaim our freedoms.
Unfortunately, we often don’t see the harm done by one little Town Council vote. That is, until it’s too late, and a huge “affordable” housing project is being planned in your backyard, and your taxes will be increasing exponentially to pay for it. “But…but…” you try to say, “it’s a conflict of interest…” But you are cut off by the booming voice of the rich developer whose multi-million-dollar business has ties to one of your elected officials! And he won’t be paying any taxes because he made a deal with the devil so you would pay for it. Too late, the board already voted and the foundation is being poured as your voice is drowned out, because you didn’t show up for the public hearing to address your concerns! And neither did any of your neighbors. Maybe they simply didn’t know, or worse, don’t care. Or it was too cold out. Or perhaps they were too busy watching “Dancing With The Stars.” No matter the excuse, you missed it and now you can’t do anything except complain about the high-rise building that will soon be blocking your view. Moving is not an option because your property values will diminish significantly as your property tax soars sky high. Who would want to buy your house and pay those outrageous taxes? Likely, no one. We need to avoid this scenario, and the hope is that you will read my column and keep yourself up to snuff so that this does not happen to you, your neighbor or any homeowner in Saugerties because you will be informed. It is time for the people to have a voice, and this column will help us focus on important issues to accomplish the goal of informed decision making and rational choices.
Follow along and keep up the pace since no one will do it for you. It’s time to change the townspeople from “go-along sheeple” to informed community decision makers who put the heat on elected officials to do the right thing for the people. Independent thinkers once shaped this great country and their blood needs to flow through the veins of the Saugerties residents. Together we can resurrect this town and lead ourselves down the road to prosperity. The last time you’ll be seen wearing your dunce cap will be when you go to Town Hall to pay your inflated “smart” water bill. Maybe next time, you’ll pay attention. Toss the dunce cap in the trash, you have been given a second chance. Don’t miss out.
Donna Greco’s column appears the third week of each month.