The city will take over operation of its sewage treatment plant at the end of the year, Mayor-elect Gary McCarthy said.
After months of negotiation, private contractor Veolia and the city could not come to an agreement for a new contract to run the plant, McCarthy said, so when the current deal expires on Dec. 31, the city will step in.
Work to transfer responsibility back to the city will begin shortly, although McCarthy said he’s also open to last-minute negotiations from Veolia.
“At this point, we are taking it over. In my mind, it’s definite at this point, but I’ve learned never to say ‘definite’ because things can change,” he said.
Neighbors who live near the sometimes-smelly plant had mixed feelings about the changeover. They initially welcomed Veolia because they hoped the company would put an end to what seemed like daily odors. The smell was so bad, they said, that they sometimes could not sleep even after closing their windows.
“It was almost daily. It was unbearable,” said David Altieri, who has lived near the plant for four decades.
Smells would occur when the plant developed a leak or machinery broke down.
Altieri said Veolia fixed odor problems quickly when they occurred, but other residents said Veolia produced so many smells that the city was unlikely to do worse.
“I don’t know if the city’s any worse than Veolia. I haven’t seen a big difference with either one,” said longtime resident Shirley Brusie.
She allowed that Veolia seemed to be slightly better — but she said it’s still bad.
“It smells like an outhouse,” she said. “It’s not as often, but you never know when it’s going to pop up. Lots of times, I’ll wake up in the night and think, what is that smell?”
Brusie said she’s hopeful McCarthy will improve the situation.
“Maybe with a new mayor, it’ll make a difference,” she said.
Altieri is worried the city won’t fix the smells as quickly as Veolia. He believes the city workers who ran the plant before Veolia simply didn’t know what they were doing.
Veolia, he said, would quickly correct smelly mistakes.
“I call their hotline, and they send someone up here right away, within five minutes. They figure out what type of smell it is, and then they say, ‘OK, we must have a leak in one of the vessels’ or something, and they’d go and take care of it. And the smell would be gone,” he said.
He worries that under city management, the smells won’t be addressed.
The city is planning to hire the plant’s current staff, which he said is encouraging.
“That may make the difference, not that they know how the plant is run,” he said.
Contract negotiations fell apart over whether Veolia would get to keep future revenue expected as a result of improvements made at the plant.
The city stands to save $1 million a year, after employee salaries and benefits, if it runs the plant itself. However, mayoral candidate Roger Hull questioned that calculation during his campaign against McCarthy, saying that pension costs would continue to rise and eventually eat through those savings.
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Categories: Schenectady County