The proposed $1 billion deal to let a private company, United Water, operate Nassau County's sewer system for the next 20 years hasn't raised much opposition. Hardly anyone with knowledge of the county's three wastewater plants, 53 pumping stations and 3,000 miles of sewers doubts a private company could do the job better and cheaper. Privatization could save as much as $10 million a year.
An analysis by United Water and tales from county officials suggest the operation has twice as many employees as it needs and makes terrible equipment and maintenance decisions.
Perhaps the only suspect aspect of the deal seems to be the procedure to approve it. Public comment in front of the legislature and a vote on the deal are scheduled for Monday: Shouldn't public and legislative hearings on such a huge and complex deal be separated from voting by a bit of time? Some Democratic legislators feel the plan to have a seven-member rules committee, rather than the full legislature, vote on the contract on the grounds that it is a "personal services agreement" is an unusual contortion. The administration says that's the process.
The fact that the whole legislature won't vote may have something to do with the State Senate race between legislators David Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa). Denenberg has often opposed privatization of vital services and wants more time and a vote of the full legislature on the deal. Neither sits on the rules committee.
There is the potential for significant savings here if County Executive Edward Mangano cuts hiring enough to find work for and pay the salaries of the sewer workers United Water doesn't need.
The deal seems to make sense. But leave it to a sewer deal to remind us that nothing ever looks 100 percent clean in Nassau politics.