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CAYUGA COUNTY

Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority board seeks more northern representation

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Tucker Whitman

Cayuga County Legislator Tucker Whitman, who represents District 1, speaks at a Legislature meeting in June 2017.

More than half of the Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority's nine-member Board of Directors are from the middle of the county, causing some legislators to ask — where is the representation for the north and south? 

Legislator Tucker Whitman, who represents the towns of Sterling and Victory, has brought that concern before his fellow lawmakers multiple times. Now chair of the Legislature's Public Works Committee, Whitman expressed it again last week when considering reappointments to the board.  

Two slated for approval were residents in the city's limits, and one was from the town of Owasco. 

"Anybody else have any discussion on this, because I sure do," Whitman said at the meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13. "We do not have representation in the north. We have a lot of representation for the middle."

The authority, which was created in 1995 through state legislation sponsored by Cayuga County, provides water and waste water services spanning the nearly 65-mile long county. The authority has a large sewer district up north, created in 2005 to comply with a state Department of Environmental Conservation decree to protect Little Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario. 

The authority, according to its website, also provides water to the village of Port Byron, Weedsport and the towns of Mentz, Montezuma, Brutus, the New York State Thruway Authority, parts of Aurelius and Springport. 

Recently awarded state funding to develop a comprehensive map of the county's water and sewer services, the authority will be looking at where coverage is lacking and where it could partner to create a backup source of drinking water. 

Jeanine Wilson, director of the authority's operations, told the committee that it's difficult to get representation from the north. She added that the authority has advertised on its website and reached out to various people to get them to join the board.

"It's a long way to come for meetings on an uncompensated board," she said. "We've got a lot of major projects going on, but we'll certainly put that out there."

Whitman said he'd like to see the reappointments be tabled while more northern representation is sought. 

Legislator Joseph DeForest, who represents the opposite end of the county from Whitman in District 8, said he agreed with tabling the matter. 

"Given the whole nature of the watershed situation in Cayuga County, it seems to me like perhaps more thought needs to go into this," DeForest said. "Not just come up with names, but try and figure out exactly what our water concerns are. We know Cayuga Lake on the southern end of the county is developing its own issues that have to be dealt with, and certainly the north end of the county should be represented, too. ... I'd like to see more than one or two people try to figure out what the best fit is and how to get the representation we need."

The reappointments were tabled for next month. 

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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