CWC won't fund septics in Phoenicia

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By Jay Braman Jr.
The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) is standing strong behind its decision not to include Phoenicia in its watershed-wide septic system rehabilitation/replacement program.
Three months ago the Coalition of Watershed Towns (CWT) officially notified the CWC that its policy not to allow Phoenicia residents to participate in the popular septic maintenance program does not reflect the intent of the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

That opinion marked the latest fracas in what has been a long and embarrassing process for Phoenicia, which was offered $17.2 million to build a new sewer system for the hamlet.
Pressure from the business community prompted the Shandaken Town Board to scuttle the project, but septic problems still remain.

Unfortunately for the hundreds of property owners in Phoenicia, CWC has claimed that they do not qualify for funds under the septic maintenance program, another program, separate from the sewer system one, that serves all other communities throughout the vast Watershed region.

While the sewer program creates systems for entire communities, the septic program pays for the repair or replacement of individual septic systems for one- or two-family homes.
Nowadays a new septic system runs about $20,000 and can easily cost twice that, depending on site conditions. The septic maintenance program pays those costs up front. While many are completed every year, there are literally thousands yet to do.

In 2011, a total of 227 systems were repaired or replaced, bringing to 3,789 the total number of systems installed with CWC funds since 1997 when the program began.The CWC has told Phoenicia residents that they must go to the end of the line, or just pay for the systems themselves.
CWC has also said that those that pay for the systems can apply for a reimbursement from CWC, but there are no guarantees. After the CWT asked CWC to rethink the policy, Alan Rosa, the agencies executive director responded with a letter explaining why the policy will not change.

“CWC’s outside legal counsel has reviewed the request and concurred with the CWC Board, Executive Director, and Corporate Counsel that the program rules as written do not violate the MOA and are not otherwise inconsistent with the MOA,” said Rosa.

Rosa also said that financial resources were limited and that his agencies rules, “reflect fiscally prudent management of these program funds.”Shandaken Town Supervisor Rob Stanley could not be reached for comment.