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Oswego looking at ways to lower hiked water, sewer rates


A resolution that would have reversed the increase in Oswego's sewer and water rates was removed from consideration Monday at the Common Council meeting. Councilor Pat McLaughlin said he withdrew his motion because he and Oswego Mayor William Barlow are looking at alternative ways to pay for the federally mandated repair of its sewer pipelines and water treatment plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are attempting to reduce raw sewage pollution into Lake Ontario by requiring Oswego to separate its sewer and storm water systems. To pay for the next phase of the $87 million consent decree, the Common Council hiked sewer and water rates in December. That drew sharp criticism from the public during a meeting of the Common Council on Jan. 4.

McLaughlin said the city is now looking at potentially increasing fees for businesses that use larger amounts of water.

"Some commercial properties don't pay their fair share," McLaughlin said. "Ultimately, that's what I'm looking - not just I, the mayor and everybody is looking to spread it out on everybody's shoulders rather than on just the residents, the homeowners."

McLaughlin said the hospital is one of those businesses he is looking at. Barlow said, in addition to looking at higher rates for those who use larger amounts of water, he is also meeting with the DEC Tuesday to possibly re-negotiate the renovation.

"I understand how serious the environment is, how serious we take it and how well we have to treat it," Barlow said. "I’m willing to work with the DEC in being compliant and staying on schedule. At the same time, I can’t bankrupt a city to do it. That will really be the essence of my conversation."

Barlow said he also has meetings lined up with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's and Sen. Charles Schumer's offices.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.