On October 5, Trustee Jim Steinberg was quoted in the North County News. The reporter had asked about the drinking water study the village was commissioning for $8,750. Trustee Steinberg said, “When the consultant makes his recommendations, I anticipate the cost of these infrastructural needs to be financed in the first instance through the sewer rent collected and not through capital spending.…”.
Misstatements by public officials in the press, when left uncorrected, often mislead the thinking of others. Trustee Steinberg’s connection of sewer rent and drinking water funds was fundamentally inaccurate and very misleading.
On October 7, two days after the newspaper story, a resident’s letter to the Village Board, including Steinberg, encouraged passage of sewer rent because sewer rent funds would improve drinking water.
On October 12, seven days after the story, a second resident’s letter to the Village Board, including Jim, encouraged passage of “sewer tax” by repeating the same misconceived rationale that Trustee Steinberg had published.
Two days later on October 14, a third citizen wrote the Village Board, including Jim, on the matter in nearly identical terms that further spread this misunderstanding.
We applaud residents who make the effort to write us. Yet these letters suggest many residents have been misled into thinking that our drinking water fund and potential new sewer rent fund are one and the same. They are not.
I know of no attempt by Jim to correct his widely circulating error. To the contrary, on October 17, Jim glibly disavowed this error when he was asked about it at the public hearing on sewer rent (see video below).
If Jim blames the reporter for misquoting him, then why did Jim agree to be quoted again by the same reporter in a new article on a different topic in the October 12 issue of the NCN?
Let’s set the record straight before even more people are misinformed: There is NO CONNECTION between improving drinking water and collecting sewer rent. New York General Municipal Law 453 specifically restricts how we can use sewer rent money. We can only use it to operate, maintain and repair sewers. In a 2001 opinion, the Office of the State Comptroller specifically forbids villages from raising excess sewer rent to help pay for more general, non-sewer related expenses like drinking water improvements.
We may ONLY use a sewer rent fund to operate and improve existing sewers. The improvement of DRINKING water may NOT be funded by sewer rent. The proposed sewer rent will NOT reduce our future capital borrowing to improve or expand our drinking water system. Such improvements are typically funded out of the separate and long established Water Fund as mandated by state law.
I am upset that I have to write this letter. The public should know the truth. If you support the sewer rent proposal with the hope that it will support our drinking water system, you were misinformed. Why did Jim Steinberg not read the letters we all received from our constituents that resulted from his error? If he did read them and failed to see his error being compounded, then why does he leave it to others have to set the record straight?