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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Real Price of Water

Residents facing the prospect of paying for a new water district, #15, should realize the price tag for water has two sides. Side one is the cost in dollars that each homeowner will pay yearly for bonds and water. Side two is the price of changing the face of their neighborhoods. It's a price they must consider as much as any yearly payment.

The folks who ran many of the town board majorities in North Greenbush were not always concerned about people who needed water because they had a bad well. Often what drove them to put forward district after district through a process of "permissive referendum" was to benefit developers and the larger business community that profits from development.

Simply put, the hidden price tag of any water district is new development that would not be possible without the existence of a water district. It is also more often than not what is referred to as "high density" development, meaning that with water, a developer can build a home on about a quarter acre of land while without water, the land requirement is two acres.

Once the water is present, developers will be able to descend on the community and build high density multi units such as the 90 or so town houses now proposed for Winter Street near Williams Road. Without the water, only a few homes could be built on that large piece of land which would look much more like the existing neighborhoods around the land now.
In North Greenbush, the political struggles have not been about ideology in the traditional sense, ie, Republican verses Democrats. Rather, the struggle for control of government has been about development and the huge profits that are at stake. The Republican Party is traditionally pro business in its philosophy so it is not unusual to see developers like George Amodore running as a Republican. But it is unusual to see developers running as Democrats in an effort to take control of a local Democratic Party Committee as happened this year in North Greenbush. This time, the forces working to take control of the Democratic Party on behalf of developers were unsuccessful, but they still have 4 votes on the town board and control of the planning board and their majority stalls passage of the Comprehensive Plan with new members who are literally doing it all over at considerable expense.

So when you hear town board members say they want to approve millions of dollars to build a water district to help residents in need, take a closer look at who they work for, who they take contributions from and who they really represent. When you elect an employee of a local sand, gravel and blacktop company to the town board and he hires his employer's spouse as a town attorney, you should not be surprised to see water projects fought for as if there was personal profit at stake. You should not be surprised to see a town board controlled by these forces go into court to stop petitions from being recognized, and prevent people from voting because they might reject a water district and prevent a big contract from being doled out with all the future product sales that occur from newly possible development. You should also not be surprised when a town supervisor like Mark Evers sees the gold in development and becomes a real estate agent to begin cashing in and voting on issues that benefit his new employers.

Side two of the price tag must be considered. Once you see it and decide if it's worth the price, you may find yourself fighting your town government when you try to exercise your right to vote on such a project's approval. It's not a fairy tale here, it's the true story of the history of Water District 14 which you can read about by searching this blog.

Let's all hope it does not happen again in Water District 15. But beware, the same folks who administered the contract in Water 14 and engineered it are still in town hall, including the Town Supervisor who allowed the over run checks to go out the door to the contractor who just happens to run the town Conservative Party. Their history of cost overruns approved without proper change orders remains a record of no accountability. Those who benefit from these contracts are also ready to once again use local residents as fronts for expensive direct mail campaigns using professional mailing services to sway your vote, IF, you get as far a forcing a public referendum without your petitions being challenged by the town board itself as happened in Water 14.

Palintology aka Saturday Night Live
If you missed it, we could not resist giving you a link here to Saturday night's "interview" with Gov. Sarah Palin.

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