Letter to the Editor

To the Editor
I only wish that as a community we had a choice. Unfortunately, we gave up any choices we might have had when we signed the consent decree that compels us to make changes and upgrades to our Westside sanitary sewer system. Signing the consent decree was the lesser of several evils by several millions of dollars in penalties and fees. It has taken many years of ignoring our obligations with respect to the overall operation and maintenance of the Westside sewer system to get us to this point, but in the end we now have few, if any choices. Our direct untreated discharges to the Oswego River and Harbor need to come to an end…and we are being court ordered on how all of this will be done. Certainly, we can look to lay blame but I will leave that to others…our challenge now is to solve the problem at hand. The timing could not be worse. The choices are no better.
Over the next 12 years you will see many changes to our sewer handling system that must be implemented by the City of Oswego, more than $87 million worth of changes. All the costs are the responsibility of the City and its residents. We need to look for every dollar that we can find…including every grant, earmark, or discretionary appropriation that we can muster. The City has had some success on this front to date but there is more that needs to be done. We need the help of every citizen and elected official to move things in the right direction.
Perhaps the greatest pain will come when we have to increase sewer rates. Not because we want to but because we are being compelled to. The consent decree requires that we establish by 2012 an “Enterprise Fund” which will fund all the necessary operation and maintenance needs of our sewer system, both the east and west side. The City is taking all of the necessary steps to have this fully functioning by the designated date. Common practice in previous years was to appropriate general fund tax dollars to offset the deficiencies that existed in the sewer costs. By decree, we will not be allowed to continue that practice. Therefore, sewer rates will be increased until we reach the point that those monies collected for sewers matches our yearly operation and maintenance costs. All sewer fees will go to the Enterprise Fund for the exclusive use of maintaining our sewer system. Each and every one of your elected officials is compelled to see that the consent order is followed. To do otherwise undermines our credibility and oath to represent you.

Perhaps we have all become a bit complacent. Every time we use water that goes down a drain we forget about the cost to treat that discharge. Our water and sewer bill will soon represent that actual cost. Quite a rude awakening! So why try to conserve water when you live near such a great and abundant supply of fresh water in our own backyard. Take a look at your water and sewer bill every time you see water go down a drain. For me, I know, it has been a great lesson in conservation and economics…the hard way.
Ronald T. Kaplewicz
Alderman, 7th Ward, City of Oswego