The fact the wastewater treatment agreement between the city of Glens Falls and the town of Queensbury went into effect on April Fools Day 2002 foretells a future that, if not for the amount of money at stake, might be considered comical.
We certainly wish someone was pulling our leg about the ongoing sewer dispute, but sadly, they are not.
We understand town and city governments are big businesses dealing with large sums of cash and their leadership is responsible and accountable for how those tax dollars are spent, but for some reason, these two neighbors continue to go down the road of the Hatfields and McCoys.
This isn’t the first time the two communities have not been unable to share the same sandbox, and it probably won’t be the last and we are puzzled why.
A decade ago, a deal was struck between Queensbury and Glens Falls that allowed the town to buy wastewater treatment capacity from the city’s water treatment plant. In layman’s terms — which are in short supply on this issue — the town agreed to send its sewage to Glens Falls to be treated in exchange for cash payment.
You would expect the issue would be black and white, with specific measurable metrics attached to the cost all spelled out in a legal agreement.
The two communities not only disagree over how much capacity the town is entitled to, but how much it is using and what price Queensbury should be paying.
After looking through the original agreement — and we acknowledge we are not lawyers — we come to the conclusion the original agreement is muddled at best and it never really spells out how Queensbury’s usage should be computed.
The key issue is the city insists Queensbury has consistently been using more capacity than it is paying for, based on “peak usage.” The town insists it is not underpaying and use should be measured by its average daily use over a three-month period.
That seems to be the more reasonable approach when trying to come up with a number acceptable to both sides.
Glens Falls insists it is owed a lot of money. Queensbury disputes how much. We suggest negotiations take place, and more importantly, the two sides settle on a language in the agreement to clear up the muddied waters.
The worst part about this fiasco is the local college, SUNY Adirondack, has been thrust into the middle of the dispute. Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond has threatened to unhook the college’s new dorm from the sewer system, because the city did not give its approval for the college to come on board, as stipulated by the agreement.
Diamond is on solid ground here. The agreement reads the city must approve any new connections before they occur. But we believe this is an instance of contract details falling through the cracks rather than any malicious intent by the town to avoid paying its sewer bill. Diamond has overreacted.
After all, the original agreement was negotiated when Robert Regan was mayor and Dennis Brower was town supervisor. We doubt anyone was aware of the hookup clause until this recent dust-up.
Mayor Diamond’s threats to treat SUNY Adirondack and any other business which attached to the sewer line without city permission as collateral damage is poor strategy, and one that will hurt both communities. It should be abandoned at once.
We understand legal language is open to interpretation, and this agreement is definitely open to interpretation. The town and the city need to sit down — we believe we have suggested this multiple times in the past on a variety of issues — to clean up the wording in the agreement so it is satisfactory and clear to all parties present and future.
This will allow Queensbury to clean up its wastewater, the college to continue with its new residence hall and Glens Falls to get paid.
Do it sooner rather than later and stop with the threats already.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mark Bergman.