sewermanhole120Over the past three or four weeks it has become evident that there is a major split among Lansing Town Board members on sewer.  As Councilman Robert Cree has said, the board was in agreement conceptually when the Sewer Committee was considering a 12A district in which only the people who receive sewer pay for it.  But when that proved too expensive and the committee turned to a 12C approach in which the whole town becomes a district with a smaller benefit area contained within it, some board members' minds changed.  The split seems to be along party lines with Republicans Ed LaVigne and Robert Cree opposing the current project, Democrats Kathy Miller and Katrina Binkewicz favoring it, with Democrat Ruth Hopkins a swing vote.

The $10.8 million project includes a stand-alone treatment plant on Portland point and an initial benefit area that spans from the Lansing schools (with a spur down Myers Road to Ladoga Park), across the 'town center' area to the juvenile detention facilities on Auburn Road.  Those who are in the initial benefit area (Tier 1) would pay 60% of the capital debt incurred to construct the system, plus an Operations & Maintenance fee and a fee based upon usage.  Residents within the town-wide district (Tier 2), which only excludes the Village of Lansing which has its own sewer, would pay an ad velorum tax of $23 per 100,000 worth of property valuation.

At Wednesday's board meeting Lansing resident Roger Hagin, who opposes the project on the grounds that Tier 2 taxpayers would get no benefit and the plan would give too much power over private property to the Town and Planning boards, asked each board member to state their position on sewer.  Here is what each had to say:

tb_kmKathy Miller: I'm in favor of the sewer for three big reasons.  One is I do think it affects the lake.  We can agree to disagree on that.  The second reason is the schools.  I really feel the schools need sewer.  The third is to get some development to get a better tax base so that our school taxes don't rise. 

Your town taxes are not really your problem.  The biggest tax you pay is the school.   The next is the county.  Then the next is the town.

I am very concerned.  My children went to Lansing during what I call the golden years of Lansing.  They had a wonderful education here, but we had AES (now Cayuga Power Plant) and that was the 'golden goose' if you will.  They put a lot of money into the tax base.

Even though my children are no longer going to Lansing I am very concerned that we can maintain the good school system that we have.  RIght now residents pay for the school.  The bulk of the taxes is on the residents.  I don't know how else to change that unless we can get some more IMRs or ADCs, which are wonderful companies.  I don't know how else we're going to do that -- our school taxes are going to go up.

I think some people will probably move out of town.  And right now our assessments are very high. I have a friend who moved to Freeville.  The school tax rate is basically the same in Dryden, but her house, which is nicer in Freeville than it was here, is assessed lower so she pays lower taxes.

So those are my three reasons.  I'm in tier two and I'm going to pay for this.  I don't think I'll ever get sewer while I'm alive.  But my feeling is that if it's for the greater good I'm willing to tighten my belt a little bit and pay.

tb_rcRobert Cree:  Conceptually when we started this I was in favor of sewer to help develop this area out here (across the street from the town ball fields) and increase the tax base.  I have to say that when it went from a 12A project to a 12C, which then meant the whole town outside of the Village was going to have to foot the bill, I began having serious concerns.

I'm having a hard time asking people to pay for something that they may not have access to for a period of time or ever.  Hopefully that answers your question: conceptually yes, but under this plan where we're asking everyone to pay for some that they may never see or not get for a long time.  I'm not for that.

tb_rhRuth Hopkins: My initial interest in sewer was because the folks in town had said that was what we needed in the comprehensive plan.  It also had the goal to support the town center.  At this point I don't have a personal desire one way or the other.  I think it's very important to do what the folks out there want us to do.  If the folks who are receiving the sewer don't want it and the rest of the town can't see the benefit to themselves or the town, be it the increased tax base or the future chance for sewer then I don't think we should do it.

In other words I totally believe in listening and an empowered process.

tb_elEd LaVigne:  People were surprised I went from one extreme to the other.  Like with anything else you do your research and you go out and ask the people.  I always loved the movies where they always have that one great line.  The one in 'Jurassic Park' is where Jeff Goldblum says, 'You know, you were so excited that you could do it.  You really didn't ask yourself if you should do it.'

Look over what's happened here and we talk to people and get a good vision of what Lansing is, what Lansing wants -- in general.  Do we want sidewalks? Do we want this?  Do we want that?  Some people do.  A lot of people don't.  A lot of people want nodular growth. 

Business is going to go where it just goes.  And that's just how it is.  We can put these things in all we want, but there are other places that are shovel-ready and we still have empty shops here.  Mr. Ronsville has empty shops up there.  Dr. Rubenstein has empty shops up by the post office.  I think Wally at Liberty Liquors had an empty shop for a long time until the dog groomer came in.

I am so concerned about the big picture.  Growth is going to come.  It's going to come on Warren Road.  It's probably going to come on Triphammer Road. But once again, is the risk outweighed by the benefit?

As a pharmacist I do this all the time.  We have to make tough decisions sometimes.  Is this really worth it or not?  That's how the medical world works.  It divorces yourself of the emotion and the niceness and the excitement.

Trust me, being on the sewer committee for a year and a half surrounded by these dynamic people -- you know, the shakers and movers.  People like Andy Sciarabba.  We should  commend people like that.  They make jobs.  They do things.

This is not an anti-Andy or an anti-Noel or anti anybody else on this committee.  Once again I will reiterate that they are not the enemy.  What it is is that we have a difference of opinion.

I for one like to lead from the front.  I don't need a poll.  I don't need a vote.  I know where I'm going to go.  I got 'hired' to do a job.  It may not be the job that I want to be done but I have to represent everyone out there, and that's everyone.

So I'm going to vote no. And I'm going to push hard for no.  And I'm going to push to make sure that everyone has accurate information.  And then if it comes to a vote, fine.  At least you're going to find out how these people feel, and I don't think that's too much to ask.

tb_kbKatrina Binkewicz: I've been paying attention to sewer and why people want sewer for quite a while.  When I was on the town board in 2003 it was an issue.  It continued to be brought back and worked on.  There are many reasons why I think it's important and I've said some of those tonight.

I also want to point out what the benefit area means.  People are focused on 'if I am in the benefit area when am I going to get sewer?' because that's what it means.  It means I deserve an extension or I'm promised an extension.  I think the concept of benefit is bigger than that.  If we have centralized, diversified economic development in a small area then the taxes that are paid for that support the town.  If we're fiscally responsible it supports the schools.  Everybody's got to pay attention to the budget and paring things down.  Definitely.  But diversified economic development in a sensible way can support the town long-term.  To have that concentrated area in the town center -- we can't do that without sewer.  yes, we can have a few residential things go in, but we cannot have that mixed use, small shops, apartments... we can't have that feeling of the town center that most other towns have that we don't have.

I also want to point out that those in tier 2, with the ad velorum tax, if you itemize you can deduct the whole things based upon your rate.  So those of you who deduct, you're getting your money back.  Those of you who don't deduct are people who are barely making ends meet.  And those are the people that are going to be more affected by the incidental benefits, the stuff that's not in the map plan.

If you have more economic development you have more jobs, local jobs.  Your kids are more likely to find jobs in the town and not have to drive a half an hour away.  If we had a laundromat in the town people who can't afford to do laundry in their own house don't have to drive to Dryden or down to Triphammer.  Many people commute to jobs and many of our kids move away because they can't get jobs around here.  So there are incidental benefits that I feel are very strong and support the project.

Whether the town votes yes or no -- it's great.  you should have the vote.  I personally love this town whether it has sewer or not.  I'm probably not ever going to have sewer.  I'm not going to be in the service area on Ridge Road.  There probably won't be enough financial reason to bring it past the Salmon Creek bridge.  I don't have a huge amount of income.  I'm still willing to pay that tier two benefit tax to see diversified economic growth in the town.