Sewer taxes to rise as lake cleanup costs go up

The price tag for the cleanup of Onondaga Lake is about to become $104 million more expensive, and though it's certain to raise sewer taxes, the Mahoney administration won't have exact numbers until Friday.

Deputy County Executive Matt Millea is one of the architects behind the new $104 million plan to keep sewage-contaminated storm water out of Harbor Brook which flows into Onondaga Lake. Millea will unveil the plan to the Onondaga County lawmakers on Friday, and try to convince them it's a bargain both environmentally and economically. He says the new plan for Harbor Brook is up to $40 million cheaper than the original proposal. That plan called for the construction of to two waste water treatment plants, similar to the one along Onondaga Creek at Midland Avenue in Syracuse.

When she became County Executive, Joanie Mahoney scrapped that idea in favor of a radical, more environmentally friendly approach she says would be less expensive.

Mahoney's project calls for underground storage facilities to convey the storm water to the Metropolitan Sewage Plant where it would be treated and discharged into Onondaga Lake. To keep the water from entering Harbor Brook through storm sewers in the first place, the county would launch a major effort to build green roofs like the one recently insalled at King and King Architects in Syracuse. In addition the county would also encourage companies to install "green" porous parking lots and landscapes.

Several years ago the County Legislature authorized $31.5 million for Harbor Brook. On Friday, lawmakers will be asked to approve another $2.3 million for engineering and design along with another $70.9 million dollars for the rest of the $104 million project.. Millea says there's already $12 million in federal stimulus money but the bulk will come from raising sewer use fees on homeowners.

Millea says however the county could qualify for other grants because what they intend to do to Harbor Brook could set a national example. "We're not doing this solely for ourselves, we're doing this to prove it can be done in cities throughout the nation." Millea told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.

Millea says the County Executive's office will reveal just how much they intend to raise sewer fees to pay for the Harbor Brook Combined Sewer Overflow project. At that time, he will also ask lawmakers to set a time and place for a public hearing.