CWC pulls out of Phoenicia sewer project

Shandaken's latest bout of dithering over a proposed Phoenicia sewer plant may have cost the town $15.8 million in New York City grant money. After years of negotiation with a reluctant town board over the Phoenicia sewer project, the Catskill Watershed Corporation has finally decided enough is enough.

On Monday, May 7, the Shandaken town board voted 3-1 to table a resolution that would have set a May 22 date for a public hearing on the sewer system. The hearing would have been the next step toward setting a date for a public referendum. A previous public vote on a sewer system for Phoenicia failed in 2007.

Supervisor Rob Stanley was not at the meeting. Jack Jordan voted for the resolution, while fellow board members Alfie Higley, Vincent Bernstein and Doris Bartlett voted to table it.

The vote left the timetable for deciding on the sewer project in limbo. A new sewer district must be established by August 6 in order to be eligible for $15.8 million in block grant funds from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. The grant, like most DEP-funded projects in the watershed, was to be administered by the CWC.

But it seems there is little hope that Phoenicia will be able to get that grant now. Alan Rosa, executive director of the CWC, told the Watershed Post on Tuesday that the nonprofit is washing its hands of Phoenicia's dirty water.

"The failure of the Shandaken Town Board to pass the resolution to move forward means that the CWC is effectively done with this project," he said.

Phoenicia's lack of a municipal sewer system has had a chilling effect on some local businesses recently. In 2010, the Maverick Health Center opted to relocate to Boiceville, because the health center's septic system could not legally be expanded at its Phoenicia location. Last year, beloved local brunch spot Sweet Sue's was forced by the Ulster County Health Department to close for several months after a septic system failure.

Rusty Mae Moore contributed to the reporting of this article.