We know that our infrastructure is falling apart, but the 2016 budget failed to take this into consideration, especially with respect to our sewer system.
Last year I warned the council and the public that the now adopted budget failed to address significant fiscal obligations such as fixing Memorial Field, re-lining our sewer system, investments needed for public safety, or other serious expenses. This includes our current situation where it is becoming difficult to afford an ambulance service, causing more frustration for our neighbors who have grown weary of our overuse of the mutual aid system.
To accomplish our goals of prioritizing public safety and securing rising home values, I have made a strategic effort to recruit an innovative and high performing management team that will make our vision of a great Mount Vernon a reality. We have seen tangible examples of this in our attack on potholes, fixing streetlights, and beating the recent winter blizzard.
As we make progress, it is expected that past liabilities will threaten our quality of life. The most recent issue involves a 2014 compliance order to fix our leaky sewer system from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The matter has escalated to stringent enforcement this March.
Years ago, Port Chester faced the same predicament and prevailed by borrowing millions to fix the same type of sewer problem. To avoid thousands in government fines, Mount Vernon must follow a similar path.
While we are not facing Flint-like drinking water problem, we are struggling. We have basements that are backed up with raw sewage – posing significant health concerns, harm to property values, plus smelly headaches. This issue did not happen overnight, nor will we fix the issue overnight.
Access to fresh, clean water is a human right and pillar of environmental justice. Meeting the expectation of homeowners who desire to avoid basement floods after rainfall is a standard Mount Vernon must meet. This is why I will not ignore the federal mandate to fix our sewer system.
The revitalization of Mount Vernon requires routine maintenance and infrastructure upgrades. We cannot repeat years of failed policies that neglected our basic needs.
According to the EPA mandate, we, as a city, must address the following:
Re-line approximately 50 percent of the sewer pipes in the city;
Invest in emergency chlorination facilities;
Update the maps of our existing infrastructure.
Based on the EPA order, we have tight deadlines to complete the mapping/scoping process which is estimated to cost $2 million. The repair work will even cost more.
I have chosen to make you aware of this serious situation so as to begin a public dialogue on our plans to raise resources to invest and resolve our shared sewer problem. One of our first deadlines from the federal government is at the end June 2016 and the compliance schedule stretches through 2021.
Though not glamorous, a well-functioning sewer system is vital to economic growth. Efforts to undermine or delay the federal consent order is a costly choice and I trust that my colleagues in government will work with Mount Vernon to ensure we develop cost-effective strategies to rectify the buried pipes. This is why we are seeking your support in calling Albany and Washington DC to rally our elected representatives to help secure funding for our latest federal mandate.
When BW reached out to the Mayor to get clarification on the cost he spoke of in the video Mayor Thomas informed, It will cost taxpayers in Mount Vernon, “$2 million to map and scope the problem. Port Chester had to fix 120 thousand square feet of sewer line at $15 million [five years ago]. We [Mt. Vernon] have to fix 250 thousand square feet.”
Taking the Mayor’s explanation it could cost the taxpayers in excess of $32 million dollars to repair Mt. Vernon’s crumbling sewer lines. Mayor Thomas promises he work around the clock and will go after every grant opportunity, every single discretionary dollar and every opportunity to fund this will out digging into taxpayers pockets.
Stay tuned to BW for more on this developing story!