CWC's position on buyouts
To The Editor:
On behalf of the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), I am responding to Supervisor Miller’s letter to the editor of last week.
CWC is a not for profit local development corporation. All 39 watershed towns, including Middletown, are voting members of CWC and elect the majority of the CWC Board of Directors.
Six CWC directors are elected by the 17 watershed town supervisors in Delaware County. At present, all Delaware County members of the CWC Board are also town supervisors. Supervisor Miller in her letter claims that no one is representing the Town of Middletown or the villages of Fleischmanns or Margaretville on CWC. Nothing could be further from the truth. Middletown is a voting member of CWC, and along with 16 other watershed town supervisors in Delaware County, Supervisor Miller votes to elect the six CWC directors from Delaware County.
Since CWC Director is an elected position, no town supervisor or other elected official is guaranteed a seat on CWC’s Board. CWC local directors have to be nominated and elected by the watershed town supervisors in their county. In fact, Supervisor Miller was nominated and ran for one of the three Delaware County seats up for election on the CWC Board of Directors this year. Supervisor Miller did not receive enough votes from the other Delaware town supervisors to be elected to the CWC Board.
In addition to serving as CWC Board President, I am also the Supervisor of the Town of Stamford. In addition, I have the pleasure of serving on the CWC Board with other elected Delaware County town supervisors including Martin Donnelly, Supervisor of Andes; Tina Molé, Supervisor of Bovina; Wayne Marshfield, Supervisor of Hamden; James Eisel, Supervisor of Harpersfield; and Thomas Hynes, Supervisor of Roxbury. In the past, both Alan Rosa and Len Utter (prior Supervisors of the Town of Middletown) have been elected to serve on the CWC Board.
On the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, I also serve as chairman of the Watershed Affairs Committee. Supervisor Hynes similarly serves as chairman of the Planning Committee on the Board of Supervisors. James Eisel, who is the Treasurer of CWC Board, is also the Chairman of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors. CWC Board members are not faceless unknown individuals and we are not DEP. As CWC Board members, we serve for the good of all watershed towns, including Middletown.
I work regularly with Supervisor Miller on a variety of issues, especially in her role as a member of Delaware County’s Watershed Affairs Committee. Supervisor Miller has never expressed a concern to me as either CWC Board President or as Chairman of the Delaware County Watershed Affairs Committee regarding Middletown’s being in the dark on the DEP Flood Buyout Program.
At Supervisor Miller’s request, CWC staff also met privately with Supervisor Miller and mayors Cope and Pascarella in March, 2014 to discuss the DEP Flood Buyout program. At that meeting CWC provided to each of them a binder complete with the relevant sections of the Land Acquisition Permit, the 2014 FAD, and a copy of a PowerPoint presentation given by DEP on the Buyout Program. Shortly after that meeting, DEP released a draft set of rules on the new buy-out program.
Supervisor Miller also asserts that CWC Board helped NYC create these Flood Buyout rules. That is simply not factual. The Flood Buyout program is a requirement of the latest Filtration Avoidance Determination issued by the NYS Department of Health. DEP held two stakeholder meetings in January and February of this year to get comments from the Coalition of Watershed Towns, Delaware County, and others. DEP then drafted proposed rules, without any assistance from CWC, and on April 2, 2014 emailed them out to the Coalition of Watershed Towns, Delaware County, CWC, and numerous other stakeholders for comment.
The proposed DEP Buyout rules were then discussed at the Delaware County Watershed Affairs Committee, with Supervisor Miller in attendance. Dean Frazier, Commissioner of Delaware County Watershed Affairs, who works for our Committee, provided written comments to the City. The rules were also reviewed and commented upon by the Coalition of Watershed Towns. Margaretville Village Trustee John Van Benschoten serves as an alternate on the Coalition of Watershed Towns Executive Committee. Trustee VanBenschoten attended Coalition meetings that included discussions of the DEP Buyout program. As reported by this paper, the Village of Margaretville also reviewed and provided comments on DEP’s proposed rules. Supervisor Miller was more informed than most officials in Delaware County on these matters. Whether or not she or others chose to share her knowledge with the rest of the Town of Middletown was up to her.
CWC’s involvement in all of this is limited. CWC was asked to help administer a separate program that could provide funding for relocation assistance and other flood mitigation projects, separate from the Flood Buyout Program. By agreement of the Coalition, Delaware County Watershed Affairs, Soil and Water Districts and others, those projects can only be funded in communities that have completed a flood analysis study. CWC continues to work on rules for that program to fund study recommendations, but funding from the City is not expected until mid-2015.
CWC has also been active in reviewing other aspects of DEP’s proposed flood mitigation programs. This paper ran several articles last year on special meetings called by the CWC Board to review the scope of the required studies. Supervisor Miller attended one of those meetings as well. At the time, CWC Board insisted that a Town Board be in full control of study from start to finish, and not the City, the Soil and Water District, or a committee. The CWC Board is primarily elected officials, and we have always believed that local elected officials are the best representatives for our communities.
I agree with Supervisor Miller that a DEP Flood Buyout program could have a serious impact on communities and our tax base. I also agree that DEP needs to quickly advise watershed towns about the program and how they may opt-in or opt-out of the program. There are numerous organizations and public employees of counties and districts who state they are speaking on behalf of watershed residents and businesses. If our residents and businesses are unhappy with the DEP Flood Buyout Program, they need to contact their town supervisors and make their opinion known. Most of those organizations and public employees speaking and negotiating on our collective behalf answer to the watershed towns. Since our formation in 1996, CWC has always stood with the towns in giving a local voice and guidance and in the rollout of the MOA Programs.
Michael Triolo, CWC Board President