Mayor Urges Prompt Action by Council and Comptroller to Fund the Necessary Upgrades
MOUNT VERNON, NY — June 30, 2018 — To stave off crippling fines and tax hikes, Mayor Richard Thomas has asked the Comptroller and City Council to approve the funding – a net cost of $122,000 for taxpayers – for the jobs and equipment needed to bring Mount Vernon’s sewers into compliance with federal regulations.
At a meeting in Manhattan last week, the Department of Justice informed Mayor Thomas, who was joined by Council Members Marcus Griffith and Janice Duarte, that millions of dollars in fines – up to $37,500 a day per violation – were imminent because of the city’s decade-long failure to correct violations of the Clean Water Act. Every $500,000 in fines equals a 1 percent increase in property taxes.
Progress on correcting violations has been impeded by a lack of funding by the City Council and Comptroller. Mount Vernon has no money in its current budget to pay for its Planning Commissioner or City Engineer, two posts critical to bringing the city’s sewers and storm drains into compliance.
Mayor Thomas said compliance can be achieved within 18 to 24 months if the City Council and Comptroller pay for the necessary resources, which includes equipment purchases and funding the Planning Commissioner, City Engineer, a four-person crew for the Department of Public Works, and two grant writers in the Planning Department.
The total cost is $1.8 million, but the net cost to taxpayers would only be $122,000, after $1.6 million is offset by a grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and $114,000 in current vacancy savings.
This contrasts with fines of $37,500 a day that would hit $1.2 million in a month.
“Mount Vernon has a decision to make,” said Mayor Thomas. “We can embrace a course of action and benefit from positive outcomes – complying with federal regulations, stopping pollution of our waterways, protecting taxpayers and promoting economic growth. Or we can default into inaction, which buys nothing but bad outcomes – unaffordable penalties, dirty water, crushing tax burdens and a city that will shed businesses and jobs. The choice is clear.”
Mayor Thomas said he was asking the City Council and Comptroller to work with him so that the city could quickly show the DOJ that it was making measurable progress toward compliance. He urged residents to attend Wednesday night’s City Council meeting to voice support for taking immediate action to achieve an affordable solution.
“Compliance, not defiance, is the answer,” Mayor Thomas said. “Mount Vernon can afford to fix this problem. It can’t afford not to.”