The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Voters should demand answers to these questions

- — Rick Kinsella Oneida

Has Oneida Mayor, Helen Acker, committed City of Oneida taxpayers to paying out as much as $55 Million? This is one of the questions I asked about a month ago at the Common Council meeting. Although the City Charter states that any financial commitment for a capital project in excess of $1 Million must be approved by public referendum, no one has publicly released any details on the constructi­on already taking place on Oneida’s waste treatment plant. No one has described the scope of the project or how these costs will be paid. I also asked how the contractor­s overseen by a Texas-based private equity firm were selected. The City Charter also states that the selection of contractor­s to work on such capital projects requires a carefully prescribed public sealed bidding process. I do not believe this ever took place.

About a year ago, the Commission­er of the DEC issued a finding that the city’s wastewater treatment facility was operating in violation of DEC regulation­s. The mayor has apparently decided to proceed with some action to address the violation(s) but has yet to describe what the violations were. Were the series of toxic incidents caused by improper management of the facility, equipment that has failed its purpose, or improper disposal of effluents in amounts or content that could not be properly handled by the facility. Why aren’t the Commission­ers findings publicly available so that our citizens can better understand the problem and see if the mayor’s plan is necessary and reasonable?

A January 2018 trade publicatio­n https://www.dairyfoods. com/articles/92682-hp-hood-facility-reaps-benefits-from-anaerobic-digestion-plant described the benefits to HP Hood the Town of Vernon’s waste water treatment facility when they installed a FLOTAMET-M system “that is achieving 99% removal of organic waste material from highstreng­th dairy production waste

water.” Are Oneida taxpayers being asked to pay millions of dollars for such a methane generator to process wastewater from HP Hood when HP Hood paid the bill for the Town of Vernon?

Why is the mayor committing us to a public debt without a referendum, what caused the toxic incidents last year and what is necessary to address those issues, how much will it cost taxpayers, why are taxpayers paying for equipment that benefits a private business, and how do we know that the selection of out of state contractor­s to complete a project for as much as $55 Million in public money is above board?

Voters should demand the answer to these questions and be given the chance to voice their opinion on a very expensive public works project and, in November, on an administra­tion that is not forthcomin­g with informatio­n and perhaps acting in violation of the finance law and the City Charter.

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