Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano made the case for his Wednesday during an informational meeting at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh.
Mangano touted his plan to eliminate $750 million, or 25 percent, of the county's $3 billion debt before a packed audience of about 100 people, including Long Beach barrier island residents, six days after the Harrington Park, N.J. -based United Water was selected as a potential operator for the county’s sewage treatment system for a minimum of 20 years. In addition to Cedar Creek, the county also currently operates the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway and Glen Cove Sewage Plant.
Mangano emphasized that the plan, which still need to be approved by the Nassau County Legislature, will help stabilize the county’s Sewer Authority, which is set to face bankruptcy in 2014, by saving $22 million annually. He said without the public-private partnership, the county would need to invest $300-$400 million into the plants for the next three years. If approved as operator, United Water would invest at least $400 million in capital improvements during the next decade.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Mangano during his presentation.
Gary Albertson, vice president of United Water, explained that under the public-private partnership, the county would have control of sewage rates based on inflation. United Water has had public-private partnership agreements with sewage and water systems in Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
The staff at the sewage plants will have the option to work with United Water or take another position with the county if Mangano’s plan is green lighted. The county executive said he plans to meet with plant workers by next week to get their input.
Long Beach resident Scott Bochner, into Reynold Channel from the Bay Park facility across the channel in 2010, said that he has concerns about whether Mangano’s plan is financially viable but is keeping an open mind.
“On the environmental end, I’m OK with looking at other people to run [the sewage treatment system] but fiscally I don’t think it’s a good idea yet,” said Bochner, a member of the Surfrider Foundation, who added that he is meeting with Mangano next week to go over the proposal.
Cedar Creek Oversight Committee Co-chairman Phil Franco expressed frustration after Wednesday’s hearing that the county has not explored manning the plant at its previous staffing levels from two decades ago, when the sewage treatment facility in Wantagh was awarded for being among the best in the country. Franco said the plant used to have five maintenance supervisors compared to just one today, and that the county could also save significant money by using less contractors for projects.
“My concern is that they haven’t truly looked at the option of running the plant the way it used to run when it was a Blue Ribbon plant,” said Franco, who is president of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association and was as a regional director for the newly formed Nassau County Coalition of Civic Associations last month.
The county is scheduled to hold additional information hearings on the public-private partnership proposal on May 16 at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant and on May 17 at the in Mineola.
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