OSWEGO, NY – A week after the Common Council voted to rescind its approval of a new sewer use contract with Oswego Town, a resolution to override the mayor’s veto of that action never made it to a vote Tuesday night.
At a special meeting, councilors approved waiving the rules of the council to bring the resolution to the floor for a vote.
However, they moved to an executive session before considering the resolution.
After nearly 20 minutes, they reconvened in public session – and voted to adjourn.
Therefore, the mayor’s veto stands and the contract with the town that was approved 7-0 on October remains in effect.
City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli didn’t participate in the executive session, Assistant City Attorney Tom Reynolds did instead.
“I thought that it was best Mr. Reynolds handled it, for a host of reasons,” he explained alluding to his position as Oswego Town’s counsel, as well.
Following last week’s council vote, Mayor Billy Barlow issued his veto message.
In part, he said, “I cannot stand idle and allow the city of Oswego to be the subject of an unwinnable legal action. … To do otherwise, and allow resolutions 444 and 445 to go unchallenged, would be a dereliction of my oath of office.”
“I respect the Common Council and I am proud of the work we have done together. I truly believe that we can work through this issue as we have so many others,” he added.
“I think we’ll make some changes as far as legal representation goes when we have contracts like this with municipalities. Seems like we have a common thread for legal representation now. I think we’re going to have to make a clear direction of where we’re going to go with that. I think legal advice on this muddled a lot of what we tried to do and what we attempted to do,” Councilor Eric VanBuren said following the meeting.
VanBuren said he’d likely not alter the city’s sewer law.
“But I’d certainly make a case on how we handle selling capacity; especially selling it in the amounts that we did,” he said. “The sewer code, reading the way it does, allows for us to not distinguish who hooks up, but capacity. I think we shouldn’t be selling capacity as we did, in the case of where we just gave away 45,000 (gallons per day) and they can do anything up to that amount.”
He indicated he might favor a sliding scale for payments.
According to the city attorney, the westside treatment plant has a capacity of 1.4 million gallons per day. The contract for the town of Oswego to use 45,000 gallons.
“That’s less than one-half of one percent of the entire capacity that the city has to use,” he said.
The city can allow the town some of its capacity, which would translate into additional development opportunities for the town, he said, adding that would increase the tax base for the town as well as the city.
“I’m pleased with the non action taken by the Common Council because ultimately I think it was the right thing to do,” Caraccioli said.
Both he and Reynolds believed that there would be legal action taken against the city if the contract was rescinded.
The benefit of the contract is the city receives more revenue from the town, and the town received more capacity from the city, Caraccioli said.
“Both results in additional revenue potential for the city of Oswego,” he pointed out. “Frankly and truly this is a win-win contract for both sides.”
He’s glad that a number of common councilors realized that and “decide to stand down tonight because I do think that was the right call.”
The city is fortunate to have to qualified attorneys, which allows them to share duties enabling them to avoid conflicts of interest and potential perceived conflicts, Caraccioli said.
“I try very hard to keep any potential conflicts away. This was a very direct way of doing that; having Tom Reynolds negotiate the contract for the city. I handled the negotiations for the town of Oswego. Ultimately at the end of the day both the Common Council and the town board looked at those agreements … and voted on them on their own merits with very little discussion. We were open and very transparent about it,” Caraccioli explained. “I think we achieved a very fair agreement. I think a byproduct of this is the council will become more active in contract negotiations and I welcome that.”