Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano took his sewage privatization plan on the road Wednesday night to gather support as critics, most of them Democratic lawmakers, held a dueling meeting.
At the Cedar Creek sewage plant in Wantagh, residents' questions to Mangano centered on why the county needed a private operator for the sewage treatment system. He said it would cut the county's $3 billion debt by $750 million, but critics have argued that the contractor won't profit without major rate hikes.
"Doing nothing is not an option," Mangano told about 90 people in a two-hour meeting, the first of three this month.
He said the sewage authority would be unable to continue operating past 2014. The deal would allow New Jersey-based United Water to run the Cedar Creek and Bay Park plants, 53 sewage pumping stations and 3,000 miles of sewer lines for at least 20 years. The county would retain control of the setting of rates.
United officials have projected savings after retiring the sewage authority's $465 million debt, replacing old machinery with efficient ones at company expense and cutting energy costs. But in the two-hour meeting, several residents sounded skeptical, especially after learning questions had to be submitted in writing.
"If he had given me an opportunity to speak, he could have had an advocate," said Jim Ruocco of Freeport.
At Mangano's meeting, aides for Democratic lawmakers gave out pamphlets, with one warning that the annual $200 sewage bill would explode to $800 in 10 years under the privatization. Mangano said the politicking was "sick and disgusting."
"To give a private monopoly control over a public necessity is going to cost us a fortune," Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) said.
Jerry Banbrick of Floral Park was undecided about the plan but glad Mangano was addressing the debt. He told the Democrats, "As a taxpayer, you seem to be dead set against it based on the privatization idea, not on facts since you don't have the answers."