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Oswego wins water grants that could ease residential share of consent decree

Payne Horning
WRVO News File Photo
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow speaks at a press conference in front of Lake Ontario.

Oswego has just won two New York state water fund grants that the city's mayor said is a huge breakthrough in their effort to tackle a major infrastructure project. The awards are worth a combined $3.6 million on two projects that will cost more than $14 million to complete. It's the next phase in the $87 million consent decree, a water and sewer separation project that is mandated by the state and federal governments to prevent future sewage runoff into Lake Ontario.  

Mayor Billy Barlow said the city was not eligible for the grants when he took office earlier this year because the city signed a promissory note that prevented them from applying for such programs. After working with Sen. Charles Schumer's (D-NY) office, Barlow said the path was cleared for Oswego to apply. 

This is welcome news for Oswego residents who saw their water and sewer bills spike this past winter when the city's fund for the project was critically low.

Barlow said securing this funding was part of a two-pronged approach to ensuring residents did not see another rate hike anytime soon. The other part of that plan was achieved this spring when the city changed its water rates so larger users like businesses paid more as they used more.  

"These commercial or industrial users were literally paying $0.69 per 1,000 gallons for any 1,000 gallons over 850,000 gallons, which was pretty remarkable that the people using the most water paid the least amount dollar for dollar, gallon for gallon," Barlow said.

He said that small amount pales in comparison to the average homeowner, who pays about $10 per 1,000 gallons of water.

"The average homeowner subsidizing large, industrial business at a time when their water and sewer bills have been increased exponentially over the past few years -- we wanted to correct that, in my opinion morally, and obviously raise revenues not on the backs of homeowners." 

But even with the new funding, the project is not even halfway complete. 

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.