Big taxpayer payout for sewage plant cost overrun

Onondaga County lawmakers approved spending more than $6 million on Tuesday in connection with a big cost overrun at a sewage treatment plant.

After years of costly delays, the expansion of the Wetzel Road sewage treatment plant is complete. It's located near the shore of the Seneca river in the Town of Clay. While the construction work may be done, the taxpayers are still paying a hefty price for the project. The Onondaga County Legislature approved a $6.2 million settlement with Falter Construction which won the bid for the expansion of the plant.

According to legislator David Knapp, "It was to avoid a lawsuit basically. The $6.2 million settles the claims. They would have had to go to court... so we settled ahead of time." Knapp says because of a cost overrun, Falter was paying money for the project out of its own pocket "to a degree"

In 2001, the Onondaga County Legislature authorized $48.6 million to expand the Wetzel Road facility. As we reported in 2007, Falter Construction found the site was riddled with soil and other problems that slowed construction and drove up the price.

The $48.6 million upgrade now has a final price tag of $60.3 million. The cost overrun totals $11.7 million.

Knapp says, over time, the county anticipated paying for the settlement and the cost overrun, so he says it won't have a significant impact on sewer use fees on homeowners and businesses in Onondaga County.