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War of words brewing over Binghamton Johnson City sewage treatment plant

(WBNG) – A war of words is heating up between two of Broome County’s top politicians.

At issue, the Binghamton Johnson City joint sewage treatment plant.

With the $275 million construction project now 14 months behind schedule and the possibility of the operations and management of the sewer plant being privatized, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar taking to Facebook on Friday.  Garnar posting that it’s going to cost taxpayers $400 million dollars and is now so far behind schedule that they are looking at being fined $37,500 per day.

Garnar went on to ask what it will cost ratepayers, adding early projections say this will double rates and that every taxpayer is affected.

Garnar said he sent a letter to Binghamton Mayor Rich David to find out what the projected rate increase will be this year and for the next 3 years.

Finally, Garnar ending his post by saying, “We need to know what the bill is going to be NOW.”

This comes on the heels of Monday night’s city council meeting where plant employees expressed their frustration that their issues and concerns aren’t being addressed by the construction manager, while construction employees responded by saying they’re not going through the right channels.

Then there’s the issue about the possible privatization of management, operations and maintenance at the plant.

All this while the plant’s undergoing the $275 million project and the Department of Environmental Conversation is fining the plant’s owners (the city of Binghamton and the Village of Johnson City) $15,000 a month because of the delays.

12 News caught up with Garnar on Friday.  He told us that he’s “looking for … more transparency.”  Garnar went on to say, “We know it’s going to be $400 million and the way that bill is going to be paid is that those rates are going to go up and the question is, how much?”

We asked Binghamton Mayor David for a response and here’s what he had to say:

“County Executive Garnar has been in local elected office for more than a decade, yet seems to have just discovered Broome County’s largest infrastructure and environmental challenge. When sewer rates increased by 72 percent under the Ryan Administration and taxpayers were buried by a $4.2 million Sewer Fund deficit, where was Jason Garnar? When in 2011 a wall collapsed and in 2013 journalists exposed the dysfunction and mismanagement at the plant, where was Jason Garnar? I was elected and re-elected to clean up this mess.
Now that a project to fix the plant and meet environmental standards is finally coming online, the County Executive wants to politicize it – messing up even the most basic of information along the way. Jason Garnar joins a long list of County Executives who talked a great deal about this issue, but never did anything about it.”

The project’s next deadline? August 31st. If it’s not met, the DEC says those fines could go up from $15,000 a month to $30,000 a day.

Paul Mueller

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