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Denenberg Takes on Sewer Plant Privatization at Civic Meeting

Newly-formed coalition predicts that monthly rates could go as high as $185 per month for sewers.

The plans of County Executive Ed Mangano to privatize the sewer system for parts of Nassau County is drawing a large response from Legis. Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick, as well as the community.

At Thursday's meeting of the (NCMCA), Denenberg explained that selling off these plants to a private company will help Mangano balance the budget, but that it is not sustainable in the long term. He also said that Mangano continues to use cash reserves to do maintenance projects at the County's plants and that he has already selected Morgan Stanley to oversee the possible transaction.

"When a private company has a monopoly over a necessity, they will make their money back," he said.

Denenberg told the crowd that this is not the first time that selling an asset has come up, and it hasn't worked out for the best before.

"We have sold hospitals and it's come back to bite us. We still have the debt but we lost the asset. We need to think about giving away this asset and what it will do to our sewer tax," he said.

Denenberg also told attendees that the county executive tried to impose a sewer usage fee on tax exempts, like school districts, and a lawsuit ensued.

The newly formed Nassau County Coalition of Civic Associations (NCCCA) is hoping to mount pressure at halting the , which would involve selling or leasing the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh, Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant and Glen Cove Sewage Plant to a private company. Mangano's plan is aimed at helping the county close a more than $300 million deficit.

Claudia Borecky, president of the NCMCA, explained that the coalition has done research and that sewage rates are about $185 per year. If the plants are sold, then sewage rates could go as high as $185 per month.

"If our rates become like our Aqua water rates, you are going to hurt us more than if you raised our taxes," she said.

Members of the coalition encouraged community members to come and speak at the Legislature so representatives know how people from the community feel.

"We, the people, own those sewer plants," said an attendee at the NCMCA meeting. "We paid for them once and we don't want to wind up paying for them again."

Denenberg is scheduled to host a forum on Mangano's sewer system privatization plan Tuesday night at the starting at 7:30 p.m. 

Wayne Smith March 20, 2012 at 10:15 AM
There have been justifiable complaints that there's not enough information on a transaction that has been described variously as anything from an outright sale, to a lease arrangement to something that would be more akin to a management contract. To me, the only thing that's clear about this is that it's unclear, and as such, difficult to judge on its merits or lack thereof.
Lifeisgood March 20, 2012 at 11:29 AM
This private company will have to make money somehow and what they will end up doing is putting a flushometer on your waste water. We will end up paying for water that comes into the house and water leaving the house. It would be cheaper to raise taxes. This happened to a friend of mine out of state and although it is good for the enviroment its costing them quite a bit of money each year.
Joe March 20, 2012 at 12:23 PM
All I've heard is speculation, which was said about LI Bus as well, raising the taxes is not a solution for Nassau County, only people that want that are the ones being well fed off the tax payers, namely county union people.
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Wall Street & County Pols cause largest Municipal Bankruptcy in US history There is no money for a lot of things around here, not since Jefferson County, population 658,000, went bankrupt last fall. There is no money for holiday D.U.I. checkpoints, litter patrols or overtime pay at the courthouse. None for crews to pull weeds or pick up road kill — not even when, as happened recently, an unlucky cow was hit near the town of Wylam. “We don’t do that any more,” E. Wayne Sullivan, director of the roads and transportation department, said of such roadside cleanup. This is life today in Jefferson County — Bankrupt, U.S.A. For all the talk in Washington about taxes and deficits, here is a place where government finances, and government itself, have simply broken down. The county, which includes the city of Birmingham, is drowning under $4 billion in debt, the legacy of a big sewer project and corrupt financial dealings that sent 17 people to prison. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/business/jefferson-county-ala-falls-off-the-bankruptcy-cliff.html?pagewanted=all
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 02:02 PM
The people feeding off the taxpayers, are the politicians we sent to represent us. Stop listening to the politicians, make them listen to you!
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 02:03 PM
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), along with a trustee for creditors of Jefferson County, Alabama, sought to appeal a March 4 ruling by a federal judge who rejected their demands to throw out the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy. Bank of New York Mellon Corp., trustee for the county’s sewer debt, JPMorgan, which owns more than $1 billion of the sewer warrants, and other creditors filed a request for court approval to appeal the ruling simultaneously with filing notices of their intent to appeal, according to a filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Birmingham, Alabama. Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy in November, after county, state officials, a court-appointed receiver and bondholders failed to implement a tentative agreement that would have required its sewer debt to be reduced by about $1 billion. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-19/jefferson-county-creditors-seek-to-appeal-bankruptcy-ruling
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Chicago drivers will pay a Morgan Stanley-led partnership at least $11.6 billion to park at city meters over the next 75 years, 10 times what Mayor Richard Daley got when he leased the system to investors in 2008. Wall Street banks, recipients of more than $300 billion in taxpayer bailouts in the worst credit collapse since the Great Depression, are profiting from helping states and cities close record recession-induced deficits by selling bonds and leasing public properties. “These deals are rarely done under the bright light of public scrutiny,” said Richard Little, director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “Often the facts come out long after the deal is done.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-09/morgan-stanley-group-s-11-billion-from-chicago-meters-makes-taxpayers-cry.html
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Nassau Sewage System Privatization Could Flush County’s Future Down The Drain “Public-private partnerships have proved to provide significant savings for taxpayers, as well as increase efficiencies,” Mangano tells the Press. “In this case, we have the ability to protect the taxpayer, increase efficiencies, protect the environment. Economists, law experts, environmentalists, watchdogs and a voluminous, easy-to-find, documented track record of similar schemes, however, counter his assessment. They paint a picture of a process tailored to protect the private entities that assume control of the once-public assets, in Nassau’s case something as basic and necessary as sewage and water services, while shortchanging the taxpayers and literally robbing them of their future, among a litany of other negative ramifications—including less transparency, less accountability, more costs for the public and potential public safety and health concerns. http://www.longislandpress.com/2011/11/17/nassau-sewage-system-privatization/
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Nassau County's finances are fundamentally out of balance, and fixing them -- since increasing taxes isn't viable in the most levy-burdened county in the nation -- means imposing harsh discipline on spending, short term and long term. This deal, instead, appears to be yet another one-shot bid to raise cash, just like the sale of leases on county-owned properties at Mitchel Field. As explained thus far, it would do nothing to alleviate structural problems with the budget. Even beyond that, though, the way the county has explained the structure of the deal so far, it doesn't make any sense. Perhaps the most frustrating and frightening part of this proposal is that, if a private operator could run the sewer system so much better than the county that nearly $1 billion extra would be generated, then the county has been the most ineffective manager in the world. More details from Mangano would help, and a win in court that would enable the county to start collecting almost $40 million a year in sewer fees from nonprofit organizations could alter the situation. But as it stands, this deal is very unlikely to happen, and wouldn't give the county the real fixes it needs even if it did. http://www.newsday.com/opinion/nassau-plan-to-generate-revenue-from-sewers-is-a-mess-1.3612421
An tUasal Airgead March 20, 2012 at 03:36 PM
The pitch by the Mangano administration is that this financial maneuver will put (they hope) $400 million in the county's coffers and pay off $465 million in sewer system debt, by recruiting an investor to finance an $865-million loan, and a private operator to run the system. The new management is supposed to generate enough cash to make a profit and pay back the investor, all without raising sewer fees. The county would still control the rates, and says they won't be raised. But for that to be the case, the new operator also would have to generate enough cash to pay for those hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements. http://www.newsday.com/opinion/nassau-plan-to-generate-revenue-from-sewers-is-a-mess-1.3612421
Phillip Franco March 21, 2012 at 04:07 AM
It looks like the county is inviting a private company into our pockets.
Chris Wendt March 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Detractors read Newsday but because their front page article disagrees with your "everything Mangano proposes is all bad all the time" attitude, you chose to simply ignore the other side of this debate? Bottom line from the Newsday story: "The deal could generate $400 million in revenue for Nassau, budget documents show. The county also would receive $465 million to retire system debt." Patch readers can read the entire story for yourselves at: http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/nassau-mulls-private-operator-for-sewers-1.3610456 In fairness to all readers, this here Patch article is, in my opinion, very slanted. Why? Because this here article, which really should have been all about the County Sewage Plant proposal is, instead, just about the political opinions of two Democrat office seekers, Dave Denenberg, who wants to replace Edward Mangano as County Executive (or replace Charles Fuschillo in the State Senate), and, Claudia Borecky who would like to replace Dave Denenberg in the County Legislature when Dave moves up. Political ambition is understandable, and in the case of Dave Denenberg, advancement is well deserved. If Dave does move up, then I also think Claudia Borecky should get a shot at the Legislature, meaning, at the polls, with us voters, against another candidate. BUT, editorial support for these hardworking politicians should be reserved for editorial column space, and should NOT cloud or obscure (slant) Patch's reporting of the NEWS.
Joe March 21, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Well said Chris
Wayne Smith March 21, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Let me offer another perspective on this topic. As I noted in the first comment above, I personally don't feel as though I have enough information to judge whether the proposal to privatize the sewer systems makes sense or not. Yes, there are some ideas that have been floated about how this would work, but no final proposal. Instead this has all come out in a sort of haphazard way and I think Mangano deserves some criticism for that. On the other hand, I think he actually deserves a lot of credit for recognizing that county government needs to be permanently restructured in order to reduce the toll high taxes have imposed on our economy. In my view, there's not a single layer of government on Long Island - from county, to town, to special districts and yes especially school districts - that shouldn't be doing exactly what he's doing. Ultimately, we might all decide that Mangano's proposal to privatize the sewer system is bad. But that begs the question: bad compared to what? When the recent controversy about his plan to reorganize the police department was at a fever pitch, I asked in this space if there was an alternative vision for reducing the cost of police services in Nassau County being advanced by the Democratic minority. I'm still waiting for an answer. Similarly, if Mangano's plan really is fatally flawed, that's no excuse for failing to develop alternative ideas for cost reduction. The criticism may be fair, but come up with a better idea.
Generals Fan March 21, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Nice try, Chris.In reading your past posts you never seem to miss an opportunity to cast aspersions on Ms. Borecky., while bringing up her political persuasion and aspirations. That was a low blow. Especially when you have admittedly not done your homework on this issue. I have done my homework, this sale is about closing a budget gap. The sewage treatment plant has $74 million in reserves. Why the sale?Now for your homework. Check out Veolia's purchase of a sewage treatment plant in Indianapolis and why the city of Indianapolis wants to now buy it back. The Nassau Coalition is a coalition of civic organizations, which took a vow not to take on a political agenda, either Democrat or Republican. The objective of this coalition is to take on causes that directly affect our communities. The sale of the 3 sewage treatment plants will affect 85% of Nassau County. I am not a Democrat nor am I a legislator, but I am a taxpayer who smells a rat. This is bad for Long Island, bad for Nassau County and bad for my community. This sale could put our canals and beaches at risk with questionable materials being filtered and pumped out into our waters with a sale to a private company. People...please do your homework and investigate this sale.
Chris Wendt March 22, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Ten-hut, General, my criticism here was of Patch for letting their editorial views color (slant) their reportage. A balanced, objective report would have included the financial enhancements reported by Newsday as a significant other side of this story. The quotes attributed to Legislator (lawmaker) Denenberg are unmistakably politically biased. As politicians, Dave and Claudia are certainly entitled to stake-out their political positions. But political positions are poor substitutes for facts, you know, facts, like what Wayne Smith and I are looking for.

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