Troy City Hall was a glow with neon Action Team shirts tonight. The chamber was filled with Troy Department of Public Works employees holding signs baring the names of council members Campana, Dunne, Ryan and DerGurahian in big red circles and lines drawn through. One worker explained to me that they were there to remind the council people who it was that got them into office.
What brought out the neon brigade was the concern over Troy's financial realities when it comes to water. Simply, the state has mandated that Troy spend an additional $3.5 million this year on a couple projects. One is to build a sludge dewatering facility. The other is regular maintenance on Troy's combined sewage outflows. Apparently Troy has 46 of these CSOs--more than any other city north of New York City--and they basically dump the sewage into the river.
These extra costs are going to stress the water department's budget, so the administration put forth a water rate increase of $.31 per 1,000 gallons. They said it is either the increase or the department will be forced to layoff 15 employees--a savings of around $500,000.
It was the third time Troy's city council was going to vote on a rate hike on city water. The first time, the council passed the rate hike with a 5-4 vote. Not good enough, apparently, due to some charter peculiarities.
But the council voted 5-4 to approve the water rate hike, and the City Charter requires an ordinance presented to the council less than seven days in advance to pass by a two-third majority, or six votes.
So they voted again. That time, the supporters of the hike had lost a supporting councilman due to personal reasons and the vote came out 4-4.
But the city needs to know what its water rate will be, and the administration, as well as many of the more influential members of the council, was apparently determined to get this rate hike voted in.
That brings us back to the vote tonight.
After nearly an hour of heated public comments, and one particularly humorous moment when McGrath in school-yard-bully fashion laughed at Dunne, flustering the poor Democrat, the water-rate hike was voted through 5 to 4, again. This time, however, it was legit.
Regardless of the neon brigade and their line of fancy signs, the dissenting councilpeople stuck by their original votes and stated that they were concerned that yet another tax increase in Troy would severely hurt their cash-strapped constituents. They also argued that there must be money available to offset the growing cost of Troy's water infrastructure.