[This Commentary originally appeared in the June 14, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
You can look elsewhere in this paper for a report on the June 7 meeting between concerned Mendon citizens and the Monroe County Water Authority (MCWA). The following merely comments on those proceedings in as fair and unbiased a fashion one can expect from a resident of Mendon.
The meeting last Thursday night showed a few interesting things. First, it looks like everyone agrees we’ve got a water problem in southeast Mendon. Second, those folks from Rochester who serve on the MCWA did a pretty thorough job researching details of alternative solutions. Finally, everyone doesn’t agree on future needs.
Perhaps the thing most noticeable occurred when the residents spoke. Mendon folks can be pretty astute when they want to. In more than a few cases, the “amateur” speakers – our neighbors – successfully debated the MCWA into logical corners.
Almost no one – save the MCWA – wants a hundred foot tower in Mendon. From the meeting, it appears the most acceptable solution includes two smaller towers, widening existing mains and possibly a pumping station.
On the surface, one might argue the above does not represent the most dollar efficient manner of meeting the needs of the MCWA. That could be true. It does, however, address the visual impact issue which most concerns the residents. And, as mentioned, it is not certain the MCWA has fully researched the various methods of employing the two water tower scenario.
Whether the plan is most dollar efficient depends on the viability of the growth assumptions of the MCWA. One large tower will address the current problems in southeast Mendon and the anticipated problems of northwest Mendon.
The two tower proposal allows for the immediate relief of the southeast Mendon problem. Further, it allows the MCWA more time to continue to assess the real – not theoretical – needs of northwest Mendon. The MCWA states this need will not occur for another 5-10 years. Their argument would be more compelling were they able to say the need lies only 2-3 years away. A lot can happen to the assumptions in 5-10 years.
A lot can happen to technology in 5-10 years, too. Maybe by that time, new methods of addressing water problems will have been discovered. These methods may reduce the cost as well as the overall environmental impact problems of the current proposals. So a delay may actually enable us to bag two birds with one stone.
But all of the above just represents an exercise in problem solving. All it does is mesh the concerns of the MCWA with those of the people of Mendon. In the end, a solution can be identified which satisfies both parties. Perhaps the two tower proposal is such a compromise.
The real concern we should all have, though, is what caused the MCWA problem in the first place. The answer: accountability, specifically, the lack thereof.
The MCWA, a government sanctioned monopoly, answers to no one. There exists no incentive for the MCWA to consider the concerns of its customers. We do not elect those officials who have been appointed to the MCWA and they cannot be removed until their term expires.
The County Legislature appoints the MCWA. To prevent overt partisanism by the majority party, each minority party selects one of the eight MCWA members. As such, the MCWA consists of one Republican and one Conservative (remember, the Democrats are the majority party). Paul Bringewatt, Executive Director of the MCWA was formerly Public Safety Commissioner of Rochester and was hired by the MCWA, not appointed by the Legislature.
In reviewing the various Rochester news media, we might guess one of the most prevalent complaints about county government focuses on its tendency towards general mismanagement. This can include everything from incompetence (like failing to submit all the paperwork regarding a landfill proposal) to lack of savvy (like giving one’s self a large raise while cutting hundreds of jobs).
To date, that has been a war us decent folk in Mendon have had no direct taste of (let’s forget about the county taxes for a moment). That may have all changed. In failing to fully consider all the options and in failing to tactfully communicate its concerns to both the Town Board and the citizens of Mendon, the MCWA appears to have displayed the kind of arrogance the average citizen most fears from government monopolies.
Let’s hope the meeting of June 7 was more than just going through the motions. The effort itself is laudable, but incorporating the concerns of Mendon will determine the success of that meeting.
Last Week #63: D.C. Turf Wars (originally published on June 7, 1990)
Next Week #65: An Old Fashioned Circus – RIGHT Here in Honeoye Falls! (originally published on June 21, 1990)
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]