Mount Vernon, New York — The City Council is perplexed at recent comments made by Mayor Richard W. Thomas in Thursday’s online edition of the Mount Vernon Inquirer. The article begins with a statement that Mayor Thomas will announce the Department of Justice’s intention to initiate a lawsuit against the city for violating the Clean Water Act since 2003.
On July 7, 2017, the City Council authorized the purchase of a sewage camera truck and an industrial power washing truck. The trucks are specifically designed to clean sewer lines in order to bolster maintenance and preventative measures. More significantly, the new vehicles are equipped to aid Department of Public Works employees in repairing the lines once the camera pinpoints the source of any breaks. The City Council has done its due diligence to facilitate the requests made by the Thomas Administration, particularly the Department of Public Works, to ensure that the city complies with the order set forth by the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It is difficult to fathom any federal agency attempting to cause undue hardship on property owners and seeking to bankrupt a municipality by levying significant financial penalties, especially when the municipality has signed a consent order and is making every attempt remain in compliance. Moreover, issues with deteriorating sewer infrastructure are not exclusive to Mount Vernon. Municipalities throughout Westchester County have received notices from the EPA. While most municipalities are negotiating with Westchester County to spearhead the effort, Mount Vernon’s mayor is promulgating false truths, promoting fear, and pushing for fines.
The Mayor over promised by consenting to more than the taxpayers can handle. The Council has negotiated to consent to realistic timelines with realistic costs spread over multiple years. The city’s 100-year old infrastructure will take over a decade to repair. If the Mayor has to renege on an over promised goal he should be held accountable for his poor negotiation. The Comptroller and the City Council will continue to protect the taxpayers and residents of our city.
It is frightening that statements made by Mayor Thomas suggest that he is inviting the Justice Department to file a lawsuit against the city. Any responsible mayor-or any other leader for that matter-would make every effort to protect its property owners and stakeholders from lawsuits. Instead of encouraging the EPA to fine the city, he should join all of the other municipalities across Westchester in developing a plan to fix the sewers while protecting taxpayers.
Council President Roberta L. Apuzzo is the immediate past vice president of the Westchester Municipal Officials Association (WMOA), which, according to its website, is an organization of 45 cities, villages and towns in Westchester County. The WMOA provides a forum for its member municipalities to study issues of mutual concern and to take action on such issues that will have a beneficial effect upon the public safety, health and welfare of its members’ citizenry. Councilman Griffith has recently been appointed to the Executive Committee of the WMOA.
– Mount Vernon City Council (for more information, contact: Roberta L. Apuzzo, City Council President at 914.668.1428)
Watch Mayor Richard Thomas’ press conference where he announces developments on Dept of Justice Action against City of Mt. Vernon