The controversial proposal to create Special Sewer District #2 for residents of the Lake Lincolndale and Lake Shenorock sections of Somers is on hold.
A referendum for residents of the two lake communities had been set for December 11 but it has been postponed, Supervisor Rick Morrissey announced at the November 7 Town Board meeting.
Morrissey said the sewer district plan would be revised and another vote date would need to be set. The project’s Map, Plan and Report and the costs will be updated and be resubmitted to the town by the engineers it has hired for the project, he said.
There have been misconceptions about the project spread by some residents, Morrissey said. For example, there will be no zoning changes in the two communities if the sewer district is approved and any fees residents in those areas would go to the sewer district, not into the town coffers.
If the $10 million from the DEP is not spent on a sewer project it will be lost, Morrissey said. Westchester County wants to spend all the grant money provided by the DEP so it can apply for more funding for other water quality preservation projects, he said.
If residents approve the new district, the Town Board would need approval from the Westchester County Board of Legislators to expand the county sewer treatment plant in Peekskill and the proposed sewer district plan would also need to be okayed the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli,
The project would ultimately cost about $62 million and town officials have said they are actively applying for grants to reduce the cost. Somers is eligible to use $10 million from the New York City DEP for the first phase of the project.
Costs would include capital construction, buy-in to the county sewer district for 10 years (which would cost between $170 and $184 annually) and annual operations and maintenance costs,
The plan is to complete the project in three phases. The first phase, which would include 65 properties in Shenorock and Lincolndale, would cost between $10 and $13 million. The second phase, which would include parcels in Shenorock, would cost between $28.1 and $30.1 million. The third phase, which would include properties in Lincolndale, would cost between $21.1 and $22.1 million.
The cost for the average home in the new district was originally thought to be $1,200 annually at full buildout. The plan is to ultimately have 985 properties included in the sewer district. The town is planning is to take out a 30-year bond to pay for the project.
Steven Robbins, project manager for the engineering firm Woodard & Curran, which has been hired by the town to create the sewer district said at last week’s meeting his firm has been in contact with Westchester County and the state comptroller’s office to seek alternative ways to charge residents for the sewer project. Since the Town Board will need to approve a new funding formula, “That will start a new public process,” Robbins said.
Robbins said after communicating with Westchester County and the comptroller’s office there are two potential new funding formulas for residents of the proposed sewer district. One option would be a “flat fee” to pay operations and maintenance costs with the range being $900 to $1,600 annually regardless of the size of a home, he said. “Each parcel would pay the same fee,” he said.
A second option would cost residents between $400 and $$2,200 annually, with the 90 percent based on property value and the other 10 percent based on the square footage of a home in the proposed sewer district, Robbins said.
Town Attorney Roland Baroni said since the sewer district plan is being revised new public hearings would be required. Once the public hearings are closed by the Town Board the town would have to schedule a referendum vote by owners of property in the proposed sewer district on a date between 30 and 60 days from the end of the hearings, he explained.
Town Board members agreed to the suggestion from Baroni to hold the referendum without requiring residents to get petitions to set up a referendum. Councilman Richard Clinchy suggested that the referendum be held in March or April because in January and February some residents take vacations or spend the winter out of town.
Councilman Anthony J. Cirieco said if after completing the first phase of the project with the $10 million from the DEP and the subsequent phase of the project were determined by the Town Board to be too expensive, “We will not go forward. There’s a failsafe in this process.”
Morrissey agreed with Cirieco, saying if grants are not provided for the other phases after the first phase he would not support the project going forward.
Cirieco said if the $10 million is not used by Somers for the sewer project other municipalities in the county will seek the money. “There’s urgency here,” Cirieco said.
Residents were split about the creation of the district at last week’s meeting. As she did previously, resident Linda Luciano strongly opposed the sewer project. She said the FAQ sheet distributed to residents about the proposal should have provided much more information.
Luciano said, contrary to statements from town officials, there is no urgency to spend the $10 million from the DEP and the money does not need to be spent on new sewers. To preserve the lakes residents should clean and maintain their septic systems and they could be aided in doing so by using the $10 million, she said.
Lake Lincolndale Resident Stephanie Mc Quaid Geiger spoke in support of the sewer project. Sewers were needed to deal with pollution in the lake which has blue-green algae, she said, maintaining septics in her neighborhood are threats to homeowners’ drinking water wells.
Mc Quaid Geiger said the town needs to send out a mailing to residents with information about the sewer district plan. Clinchy said the town recently hired a public information firm to get additional information about the project to residents.
Another project supporter was Ellen Griffin. She thanked the Town Board seeking to bring the two communities “to bring us into the 21st Century,” she said, noting septic systems are close to her drinking water well.