MAHOPAC, N.Y. - A plan to create a new sewer district in Mahopac that would provide service to businesses and housing developments along Route 6 from the county line to Buckshollow Road has been a dealt a setback after the town of Somers said it would not allow a privately owned sewage treatment plant in one of its sewage districts to be used for the project.
Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker went before the Carmel Town Board earlier this month to share details about the project, saying the county was committed to spend $75,000 on a facilities study—$50,000 for engineering work and $25,000 for legal work related to the formation of a new sewer district.
There is currently only one treatment plant in that area of Route 6, but it is owned by New York City and is at capacity. Carmel is prohibited from building more treatment plants because it is in New York City’s watershed. As a result, Putnam County officials developed the idea to use a treatment plant in Heritage Hills in Somers.
However, in an Aug. 16 letter from Somers Supervisor Rick Morrisey to Carmel Supervisor Ken Schmitt, Morrisey writes that although that treatment plant is privately owned, it is part of Somer’s Heritage Hills Sewer Treatment District, and the Somers Town Board would balk at allowing outside entities to use it.
“My Town Board members have individually indicated to me that they would have no interest in seeing the [Heritage Hills] sewer capacity used by developments outside the town of Somers and that they believe they have the fiduciary obligation to see that the HH excess capacity is reserved for both present and future residents and businesses in Somers,” Morrisey wrote.
Morrisey told Mahopac News he wrote the letter to let Schmitt know Somers’ position so Schmitt could inform the Carmel Town Board and the sewer project task force.
“The Somers Town Board approves any and all sewer district expansions, as we’ve done for Somers Crossing, Somers Middle School, SIS (Somers Intermediate School), Opengate (a center aiding the disabled) and then Merritt Park Estates, (a housing subdivision),” Morrissey said. “Those were the last couple over the last five years we’ve done.
“Sewage treatment plants in northern Westchester are very valuable assets,” he continued. “Myself and the Town Board feel that if it’s going to be used for getting people off septics, we want those to be Somers residents.”
Asked if Carmel could be tied into the main that runs from the Crossroads at Baldwin Place to the Peekskill sewage treatment plant, Morrissey said that would likely be just as problematic.
“It’s a [Westchester] county plant to serve county municipalities,” he said. “[Schmitt] could petition to come to Peekskill, but the county would probably be in the same position as I am: We don’t want out-of-town waste taking capacity in a sewer plant that’s in our municipality.”
Schmitt said that while this is a setback for the project, he feels it’s possible it could still move forward.
“I don’t believe it’s dead in the water; I don’t believe that,” he said. “I fully intend to work with leaders in the town of Somers to see if we can come up with a workable agreement.”
Schmitt said he understands the Somers Town Board’s point of view.
“They are concerned about future homes whose septic system might fail and they then they’ll need extra capacity and have to switch them over,” he said. “I get that. I do understand where he’s coming from.”
Schmitt said that he and Morrissey “had a really good discussion” about the situation.
“My intention is to work with Somers and see if there is an arrangement we can come up with,” he said. “I just learned that they created this Heritage Hills Sewer District and I have requested copies of those documents. But I am not throwing in the towel on this. If other people want to, they can. But I am not.”
County Legislator Dini LoBue, who represents Mahopac, said that while she thinks sewage service along that Route 6 corridor is a good idea in principle, she felt this particular project was not well thought out, which is why she voted against it.
“Very little details were provided,” she said. “I thought we were doing it haphazardly. Nobody did their due diligence that we had to cross into another town that had rights and wanted it for future development.”
LoBue said she believes part of the problem is that the county is currently without a commissioner of planning.
“We could have used someone who has master plan skills,” she said. “It’s about the process.”
LoBue said she believes the county was premature in applying for grant money to perform the engineering and facility studies for the project.
“All of these resources have been wasted,” she said. “There were lots of man-hours spent working on these grants. I think it’s mismanagement. This is a folly that nobody in the county confirmed [it had permission from Somers] before they scheduled all these meetings. In the past, when we applied for grants, the project was confirmed and we had all the paperwork and information in front of us. More emphasis was placed on appearance and publicity than on substance.”
Calls to Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker seeking comment were not returned by press time.
Staff writer Tom Bartley contributed to this article.