CWC poised to take over Phoenicia’s sewer project

By Jay Braman Jr.
A meeting earlier this month between Town of Shandaken and Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) officials was a success. As a result, the town has prepared the necessary documents to officially get the CWC on board for planning the long suffering, controversial Phoenicia sewer project.

Phoenicians have been struggling with the idea of having a sewer system since the mid-1990s. Three years ago this month, local residents in the hamlet narrowly voted down a proposition to move ahead with a $17.2 million plan to build one, based on worries that their costs of hook-up wouldn’t always be covered, and by further worries that local taxpayers might be burdened with operation and maintenance costs in the future.

Prior to the vote, both supporters and opponents of the project were accussed of distributing severely inaccurate information about the plan. A new resolution has been prepared by the Shandaken Town Board which, if passed, formally includes CWC in the process, something that has not been the case in the past. It calls for the whole project, from research and design to information dissemination, bidding, and oversight, to be handed over to the CWC, whose director, Alan Rosa, and lead counsel, Timothy Cox, were on hand to answer questions at the town board’s February meeting.

Rosa said that if his organization were given the chance to help, the town and Phoenicia residents would be given ample opportunities to pull out of any deal... until bids were actually accepted and set in stone. He added that, having worked with numerous other towns and villages on a number of different styles of such systems throughout the Catskills, the CWC would bring full information to the town and Phoenicia residents throughout the process.

Rosa also added that the city’s payments for local sewer systems were not something being forced on Catskills communities, but something he and other town officials fought hard for in the 1990s, when New York tried pushing new watershed laws and faced fierce local opposition, resulting in the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement under which the CWC was set up and financed.
“The city never wanted to fund these projects,” Rosa said.

He added that CWC has supervised similar projects all over the watershed and continues to so.
“We would run the project the same way we run the rest of our projects,” said Rosa. “It’s completely up to the Town of Shandaken...we just present the facts. All decisions remain with the town board. My feeling is it’s got to be up to the people that live in that district.”

Also, CWC would make a significant contribution, Rosa said, in that the agency would pay for the planning phase of the project itself. This way all funds remaining in the $17.2 million block grant allocated for the project by New York City would go toward the construction of the project.