Phoenicia sewer proposal causing more controversy

By Jay Braman Jr.
The City of New York has extended the deadline for Phoenicia to decide whether it wants to accept a $17-million sewer deal, prompting residents on both sides of the issue to spout off at a town board meeting Monday.
Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani told the audience that he and Councilman Vince Bernstein met last week with city officials, who agreed to spend $12,000 to study a plan to use a different type of treatment system in Phoenicia.
DiSclafani has been in contact with New England Waste Systems, a company that designs, builds, operates and trains operators of Artificial Wetland Treatment Systems. DiSclafani said this is an alternative to the more typical concrete and steel waste treatment systems that are in use throughout the watershed and what was voted down by Phoenicia residents in 2007.
The city agreed to investigate the idea and granted an extension to Phoenicia. After last year’s defeat of the sewer project the city decided to give the hamlet until this June to decide if it wanted a sewer. If so, they would fund construction of the system and pay a substantial portion of the annual operating costs, but the hamlet would own the system and be responsible for its repair and upgrade.
Opponents of the plan have drawn a hard line, demanding that the city own the system and give the service to Phoenicia for free. City officials have consistently maintained that there will be no discussion of that, and are prepared to take the $17 million allocated for Phoenicia and give it to some other community in the watershed region for a sewer system should Phoenicia decline the city’s offer.
On Monday, Phoenicia residents who have been involved with the sewer issue for several years felt old wounds opened when the extension was announced. Mike Ricciardella, a major opponent of the system, reiterated his anger and frustration over the uncertainty of the cost Phoenicia would bear in the long run should a system be installed.
Charles Frasier, who with Ricciardella was on a committee to plan for a sewer system, was furious that the town was embarking on yet another study, saying that Phoenicia has been studying the matter for over a decade. Frasier, who supports building a sewer system, said that reinventing the wheel again is a waste of time.
In the mid 1990s an engineering firm designed an entire system for Phoenicia but the project never came to fruition due to lack of funds. Three years ago another engineering firm was hired to design a system and that was the one that voters opposed.
The town board agreed to authorize the study of the system offered by New England Waste Systems and report the findings as soon as possible.
“This will be the third time this has been done,” Frasier shouted.