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Monday, May 11, 2009

Fees in Lieu of Mitigation and Flow Credits...

A recent Observer Dispatch editorial regarding the sewer credit system doesn't tell the whole story in the Town of New Hartford.

According to Resolution 69 of 2008 - Intermunicipal agreement with NYM adopted at the March 9, 2008 Town Board meeting, the Town of New Hartford signed a Intermunicipal Agreement with the Village of New York Mills.

The Town paid $31,000+ for sewer repairs in the Village of New York Mills and in turn the town received the sewer credits that would have been given to the Village of NYM.

The Village of New York Mills was agreeable because they felt it would give them the money they needed to pay for sewer repairs in other parts of the Village. From the minutes of the December 11, 2007 Regular Board Meeting, Village of New York Mills:
Engineer - Al reported the Town of New Hartford has agreed to fully fund $31,000 for the Henderson Street project. We will now be able to complete other work on Royal Brook Lane and Burr Ave. The contractor is willing to do extra work for the Town of New Hartford to buy infiltration removals credits. Trustee Semeniak made a motion seconded by Trustee Jarosz to approve the Engineer written report which is on file in the Clerk's office.
No problem. Everyone got what they wanted, right? Not exactly.

To pay for the sewer credits, the Town of New Hartford used Fees in Lieu of Mitigation collected from developers in the Seneca Turnpike/Commercial Drive Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) area (i.e. Sangertown Square, Consumer Square, Pep Boys, etc.). According to the April 9, 2008 Town of New Hartford board minutes - Budget Transfer/IMA - Resolution #69 of 2008 Seneca Tpke-Commercial Drive GEIS explains the plan. Here is an excerpt:
WHEREAS, as the I/I removal was a mitigation project for offsite issues of environmental significance in the Seneca Turnpike-Commercial Drive Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) corridor, funds from the Seneca Turnpike-Commercial Drive GEIS’ Mitigation Fees, Sanitary Sewer category shall be used to procure the offset credits;
It is not the responsibility of the town to fix Village of NYM sewer problems; NYM is responsible for fixing their own sewer problems. And the main problem with the deal is that the Village of NYM is not even part of the Seneca Turnpike/Commercial Drive GEIS; Concerned Citizens confirmed that with Town staff.

Fees in Lieu of Mitigation (FILM) are monies collected from developers in a GEIS area in order to mitigate any potential problems that might be caused as a result of their development. The town used monies collected from developers in the Town of New Hartford to pay for repairs in the Village of New York Mills. Why aren't developers paying for their own sewer credits?

Fast forward...At the April 8, 2009 Town Board meeting, the board approved the hiring of former Town Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland as a consultant. According to the proposal submitted by Mr. Cleveland and unanimously approved by the town board:
Fees In Lieu of Mitigation (FILM)

BACKGROUND: The Town of New Hartford currently has an unclear spending policy for monies offered to the Town by developers within the two existing GEIS areas that is in lieu of actual mitigation of offsite environmental issues of significance related to economic development. Past expenditures have been based on either the unilateral recommendation of a former Special Counsel, or the unilateral recommendation of a Town staff member, albeit all past expenditures have received approval of the Town Board. At this time none of the original Town staff or Town Board members who were intimately involved with the GEIS studies or the original thinking as to how and on what to expend FILM monies are employed by the Town, so any original unwritten standards are no longer available as a guide.

To clarify this matter, and to adopt policy that is applicable for the variety of offsite issues of environmental significance that are identified in the GEIS and well as others, that while not specifically identified, are determined to have a reasonable nexus, it is deemed necessary to have a written policy upon which every consideration of expenditure can be evaluated.

It has come to light that the acquisition, banking and selling of flow credits to progress economic development while under the Oneida County Sewer District Consent Order is bereft with possible legal challenges. These challenges include, but are not limited to the actual sale price, priority in disposing of, and retaining them for future projects. As we know of no other community in the district that has as yet banked or sold flow credits, and as the Town of New Hartford has generated flow credits and has developers wanting to purchase them, the Town Board desires to develop a written policy for dealing with them so that every developer is subject to the same criteria, at both the Town Board level and at the Planning Board level.
For his work, Mr. Cleveland will be paid $1,800 lump sum for the FILM project and $1,800 lump sum for the Flow Credits project. Plus Mr. Cleveland will receive:
Additional Direct Expenses Travel out of Town at Town established rate per mile.

Town to furnish working space including phone, internet service, and printer at no cost to service provider.

Town to provide photocopier at no cost to service provider.

Typing services and photocopying time to be provided at no cost to provider.
So if the town board felt there was no clear-cut policy, why did they unanimously approve the payment of monies from fees collected from developers in the Town of New Hartford to pay for mitigation in the Village of New York Mills? Shouldn't at least one of them questioned the legality of the deal given the policy that was clearly in place prior to this administration? Under what authority did the Town use monies collected from developers in the town proper to mitigate issues in the Village?

This sounds more like a plan to re-write the policy to suit the needs of the current town board and their "developer" friends!

Strikeslip over at Fault Lines has more...The Down Side of Sewer Credits...


Anonymous said...

Sounds like yet another sweetheart deal to benefit NH's Golden Child. How would you like some free Flow Credits Larry?

swimmy said...

Perhaps a back link to older posts showing where the FILM monies went is in order, e.g. Paying to Plunder...

Anonymous said...

Exactly swimmy. That reminds me of the FILM Lancaster Const. paid to the town when they built Rt 840. Roger Cleveland definitely didn't use those funds to repair damage to surrounding roads as intended.

Now the Town re-hires Roger as a consultant to run another shell game with the Flow Credits. Nobody "robs Peter to pay Paul" any better.