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Letters: Challenging Nassau's sewer deal

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano with Bertrand Camus,

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano with Bertrand Camus, CEO of United Water discuss sewer privatization on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Beware of promises that privatization of the sewer system will save Nassau County money ["New Nassau sewer projection: $158M savings in privatization," News, July 15].

United Water is making a lot of promises, but it made a lot of promises to Atlanta; Gary, Ind.; and other communities that experienced major failures. Those cities also had high-profile, very straightforward operation and maintenance contracts with United Water.

The company also made a lot of promises about its desalination plant in Rockland County, claiming that the plant is necessary, cost-effective and sustainable. The state Public Service Commission, however, just ruled that desalination is not necessary in the short term, and the Rockland Water Coalition has found that conservation is far more cost-effective and sustainable.

The Nassau County Legislature should head the lessons from communities that were burned after they turned their sewer systems over to United Water: Reject the proposed privatization deal.

Eric Weltman, Cobble Hill

Editor's note: The writer is a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch, an environmental activist organization.

According to the news article about the projected savings to be gained by privatization of the Nassau County sewer system, the savings are largely based on transferring county workers to United Water's payroll. I don't understand how this saves anything.

The payroll for these workers has to come out of the $57.4 million a year that the county pays United Water. In addition, I assume part of that payment is a profit for United Water -- an extra cost that doesn't exist now.

Also, only half of the present workers are to be hired by United Water. The rest will remain on the Nassau County payroll with "jobs in other county departments." Can someone please explain how a Nassau taxpayer saves anything from this arrangement? It seems more like creative accounting.

Barry Schwartz, East Meadow

Two articles and an editorial in Newsday have questioned the procedure followed by the Nassau County Legislature to approve a contract with United Water Long Island Inc. for the operation and maintenance of Nassau County's sewer system ["Iffy process on good sewer deal," Editorial, July 11].

All three question whether it is appropriate for the rules committee of the Nassau County Legislature, rather than the legislature itself, to approve the execution of this agreement. The county charter unequivocally mandates that an agreement of this type be brought before the rules committee, and does not permit any alternative procedure. In fact, the section of the charter that delegates this authority to the rules committee was approved in 2000 by the voters of Nassau County by referendum.

Despite Newsday's efforts to inject uncertainty into a clearly defined legal process, I am required to follow the process mandated by the Nassau County Charter with regard to the consideration of this transaction.

Norma Gonsalves, East Meadow

Editor's note: The writer is the presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature.