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Members Of The Public Speak Out Against Rate Hikes

Councilor John Pat McLaughlin makes a point regarding the city's water/sewer rates. Looking on are councilors Eric VanBuren, center, and Caitlin Reynolds.

Councilor John Pat McLaughlin makes a point regarding the city's water/sewer rates. Looking on are councilors Eric VanBuren, center, and Caitlin Reynolds.

OSWEGO, NY – At Monday night’s Administrative Services Committee meeting, Councilor John Pat McLaughlin requested discussion regarding the water rates for the city of Oswego. The floodgates were open for more than an hour as dozens of residents berated the councilors.

Councilor John Pat McLaughlin makes a point regarding the city's water/sewer rates. Looking on are councilors Eric VanBuren, center, and Caitlin Reynolds.
Councilor John Pat McLaughlin makes a point regarding the city’s water/sewer rates. Looking on are councilors Eric VanBuren, center, and Caitlin Reynolds.

Last month, the out-going council voted 3-3 (with former mayor Tom Gillen’s yes vote breaking the deadlock) to raise the water and sewer rates. Councilor Eric VanBuren was excused.

Monday night, McLaughlin said he wanted to give the public a chance to voice their opinion on the matter.

“Then, as a council, maybe we can decide what we want to do from there,” he said.

The resolution was an add-on at the end of the final council meeting of 2015. One speaker claimed the matter was rushed through and the councilors didn’t fully understand the ramifications of what they were voting on.

“You don’t vote on something until you look into it and know what all the facts are,” he said. “This is ridiculous. If this is the way we’re going to operate, we’re in big trouble.”

“The city is fast becoming a city where taxpayers, especially retired taxpayers, can’t live,” another speaker added. “Some of us are paying an arm and a leg now,” he told the councilors.

Several of the speakers urged the committee to rescind the increase.

That would have to be done at a full council meeting, not at the committee level, Councilor Eric VanBuren explained.

A member of the audience shares his views with the committee members Monday night.
A member of the audience shares his views with the committee members Monday night.

“I think it’s important that we work together going forward,” Mayor William Barlow said.

He said he’s been in contact with Congressman John Katko on the matter to arrange a meeting. He has also talked with the regional representative for Gov. Cuomo and has a meeting scheduled; he also talked with Sen. Charles Schumer’s representative for the area and he will come to Oswego for a meeting.

“I also had my city attorney reach out to the DEC to schedule a meeting to talk about the underlying problem, which is the Consent Decree,” he said. “They need to better understand the problems were faced with. They need to realize what (the Consent Decree) is doing to the taxpayers.”

People, including the new councilors, need to have more information, new councilor Nathan Emmons said. It is posted on the website, he added.

It would be helpful, too, he said, if the DEC would come to a committee meeting and explain things in more detail.

Robert Corradino, committee chair, said the Consent Decree is long and filled with a lot of legalize. But, if you read it, it will start making sense.

“To a certain degree, we have no choice in a lot of this,” he said. “The can was kicked down the road years ago when we were supposed to do this work. We didn’t, and the bill’s come due now.”

The city of Oswego “has an awful reputation with the DEC because of past mistakes over decades,” the mayor pointed out. “That is something this new administration needs to tackle right away.”

There isn’t enough money in the Enterprise Fund currently to pay for the next phase of work that is mandated by the Consent Decree, one speaker pointed out. “We have to have the money. Where are we going to get it? You’re not going to get it all off the backs of the citizens, because it’s a lot more that you’re going to get out of raising rates.”

No one wants to raise rates, Corradino said. “But, when your hands are tied it is very difficult. I know everybody’s frustrated about this. This is a big issue.”

Why can’t we get state or federal money?” one man asked. “Every time you turn around Watertown, Syracuse all these other places are getting it. Where are our representatives? They have to do more to help these people.”

At the beginning of the Consent Decree, 2010, the cost at that time was $87 million, according to Deb Coad, city chamberlain.

“We’ve currently bonded for over $36 million and we’re now halfway through,” she said.

One woman said she brought her concerns to the attention of her then-councilor, who told her to “move out of Oswego, just as I’m going to do.”

“That was my councilor’s answer. And, a lot of people are going to be moving,” she added.

“This whole place is going to go right into the lake. And when it does I hope you all run fast because you got to beat the people that are here paying your salaries,” one woman chastised the councilors. “Try to do something for all of us, not just a select few. And if you’re going to vote on something, make sure you know what you’re voting for.”

Even though the Council Chamber was quite full Monday night, she pointed out, “This is a very poor turnout; I’m very ashamed of Oswego.”

After more than an hour, the discussion ended. However, it will continue at future committee meetings, councilors said.

According to the December 2015 resolution: “The current water and sewer rate schedule shall be abandoned and be replaced with the following rate schedule: flat rate water shall be $75/quarter and flat rate sewer shall be $200/quarter. Metered water base rate shall be $55/quarter for the first 10,000 gallons or 1,337 cubic feet and usage over the base rate shall be billed at $1.50 per 1,000 gallons or $1.50 per 134 cubic feet. Metered sewer base rate shall be $150/quarter for the first 10,000 gallons or 1,337 cubic feet and usage over the base shall be billed at $5 per 1,000 gallons or 134 cubic feet. The new water and sewer rates shall be applied to all accounts on the current schedule.”

13 Comments

  1. It’s simple really, we CANNOT afford this now let alone down the road. I’m getting out of here ASAP on one heck of a loss on my current home here; I’d advise others to follow suit!

  2. Steve –

    Rates? What rates?

    Wouldn’t some numbers help this story? I’m told the water/sewer rates in Oswego are not – and will not be – that high. Certainly not so high that you have to sell your house and move, for goodness sake!

  3. The city has to do something to generate money,The tax base is shrinking.and lets face no big companies are wanting to do business in Oswego or N.Y

  4. So call a FULL Council meeting! ASAP. There is not very many people that are current home owners in our overtaxed, drowning, overburdened city that will be able to maintain this kind of robbery. Get this rescinded QUIICK.

    Interesting that a full conversation is quoted about this Consent Decree being the cause (somewhat?) of this hike, but nothing is discussed regarding salaries being paid from this increase, which brings more light on the unsavory issues in the Fire Department.

    Come ON, MR. NEW MAYOR, stop pleasing your cohort, the ones who can and do afford these price increases, and start to speak and act for the average home owner. That is why you were voted in.

  5. Come on down to Manlius where the tax rate and water/sewer rate is much less than Oswego. My water/sewer charges this quarter was 65.00. My taxes are less also. The consent decree should never have been signed unless Chuck Schummer was standing right next to the Mayor with an 86 million dollar check to present.

  6. Problem is , they took money from enterprise to subsidize keeping some DPW employees on the job which was nice considering the holidays. Then realized that they needed to put money back , and couldn’t raise property taxes anymore because budget was done . So guess what we all took one for the team on the water/sewer bill ! Is it right? NO. But this is Oswego where some of the politicians don’t give a crap about the residents, its all about what they can get out of it, or who’s pocket they can dip into to get what they want.

  7. It’s almost amusing how Pat McLaughlin had a sudden change of heart. He, as an elected official, should have been staying on top of the situation. It’s not like this problem is something new. It’s time for the city to privatize the water department. Sell to Met Water or Onondaga County.

    We are nickeled and dimed to death. Each government entity brags about how they kept the tax rate low, but when you add up all of the two and three percent increases between the three taxing agencies, your looking at a 6-9 percent increase, and it’s a lifetime increase, not a one-time thing. Adding another $200 annually to our water/sewer bills is a slap in the face.

    To Councilman McLaughlin, had you done your homework when you should have, and followed this issue, perhaps you wouldn’t have been the swing vote. You disgust me with your ignorance to do the job you were elected to do.

    And thank you Terry Hammill for selling the water tunnel that put us in this whole mess to begin with.

  8. What we need to do in order to offset the higher water/sewer rates is to work on lowering our city taxes as this is something that we and not the DEC has control over. We need the Mayor to have b***s enough to Say no more overtime increases to the OFD. We need to shut down one of the FD. We do not need two! We need to go to private Ambulance Service. Why do we have such a large PD. in a community of approx. 16,709 people? And how many of those full size 50,000.00 SUV’S does the PD. have anyway? They are all over the place. There are many larger cities that have a lot bigger population than Oswego and they have a lot less officers and vehicles. Something needs to be done now before we all have to move out because no one will be able to afford to live here!

  9. Recently read an article in Valley news. We spend just a few $$ more than Fulton for these services. They already have private ambulance services and a bare minimum fire dept. anymore suggestions?

  10. SUGESTION! People of Oswego, Take Notice! Now is the time to seriously think about putting your homes up for sale before it is to late! This water/sewer rate is going to go up not only in 2016 but 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020…. It is basically a hidden tax that has no cap! You cannot write it off on your income tax like you can your school, county and city taxes which will most likely rise on a regular basis. The School Tax will definitely go up as the teachers make up the majority of the voters and with polling places at the Schools it’s a no win for the tax payers, especially when Joe Citizen is to lazy to get off his buff to get out and vote! If we wait to long to get out of here there will be no one who will want to buy a house in this City! You can go 12 hours South and pay 700.00 total taxes on a 200,000.00 house and save Thousands! It’s simple math people, stay here and fall into poverty or go 12 hours South and live the “High Life”!

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