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Cause for concern: citizens say not so fast to sewage treatment plant privatization

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — It’s a project that will impact tens of thousands of residents, and some of those very ratepayers let their displeasure be heard Wednesday over potential partial privatization of our area’s largest public asset.

The governments of both Binghamton and Johnson City are currently evaluating three proposals from private companies to operate and manage the $275 million Binghamton Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant.

At a rally outside of city hall, local labor reps, political activists and environmentalists spoke out against what they described as something that would harm vulnerable groups.

“The rate hikes that they’re gonna get with privatization is gonna hurt our senior citizens in this area, and that’s the biggest thing,” said Michael Dundon, the president of the Broome Tioga Central Labor Council, which includes treatment plant workers represented by the CSEA union. “We do have a more senior population, so their fixed incomes are gonna get killed by these rates increases and it’s terrible the way this has all been happening behind closed doors.”

The issue was addressed at the Binghamton City Council Business Meeting later that evening, and of the more than two dozen people, including council members, who voiced their opinion on the matter, not one was outright in favor of the partial privatization.

Below is a list of where each city council member stands on the issue, as well a phone number you can use to inform your representative of your views. To find which district you live in, click here.

1st District– Councilmen Giovanni Scaringi said he was reserving final judgment until all of the details of the bids are released, but did say, “at this point, with this information, I cannot support moving forward.” (607) 772-7200

2nd District– Councilman Dan Livingston has been a very vocal opponent of any plans to privatize any aspect, and has long argued for more transparency at the plant. (607) 772-7232

3rd District– Councilwoman Dani Cronce said she was receptive to the public’s concerns and would like to hold a public forum to discuss the issue greater in-depth, but as of the meeting had not come to a decision on the matter. (607) 772-7165

4th District– Councilman Conrad Taylor joined Councilmen Livingston as the only council members to outright oppose the idea; Taylor said several issues with transparency and public input influenced his decision. (607) 772-7236

5th District– Councilman Chris Papastrat unequivocally said he would wait until all information was publicly available to make a decision, and did not give an indication of which way he is leaning. He is the only council member involved in the bid selection committee. (607) 772-7134

6th District– Councilman John Matzo declined to comment on the topic, and as such his views are unknown. (607) 772-7237

7th District– Council President Thomas Scanlon kept his remarks brief, saying it would be unwise to make up his mind before all facts are public. (607) 772-7234

Josh Rosenblatt

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