Optimism flows after Vernon meeting with state

Charles Pritchard

February 13, 2020

Originally published in Rome Sentinel on February 11, 2020.

MEETING — The town of Vernon meets on Monday, Feb. 10 after their meeting with state officials in Albany. (SENTINEL PHOTO BY CHARLES PRITCHARD)

VERNON — Town of Vernon officials got a chance to sit down with the New York State Department of Transportation Monday and meet face to face.

At the town of Vernon board meeting Monday night, Vernon officials laid out how the meeting went to those attending.

Area residents have experienced poor quality water that they say is hard, salty, discolored and foul smelling.

“The town board elected members and Oneida County Legislator Keith Schiebel went to Albany to meet with the New York State DOT Commissioner and her staff and the department of health and their staff,” Councilor John Peters said.

Peters thanked state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, and Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, Brookfield, for facilitating the face-to-face. “This meeting provided to us an important opportunity to directly discuss and highlight our concerns with state officials and discuss potential solutions to the public health water issue,” Peters said. “We’re looking forward to continuing this dialogue with the state and bringing closure to the water quality issue affecting residents of the Vernon Center area.”

Peters said the meeting was very successful in creating an avenue to look for grants to take the burden of the planned waterline off of taxpayers. The project would service 213 households and small businesses in the area, providing six miles of eight-inch water main, a water storage tank and a booster pump station. Water would be supplied to the Vernon Center area by the town of Vernon via an inter-municipal agreement.

“It was nice to be in a room with all the heads of all the different departments,” Councilor Myron Thurston said. “I’ve been involved in government for quite a few years and I’ve been to a number of similar meetings on different issues. To have that many state departments represented around a table, discussing an issue that really affects a good number of people in a horrible way... It’s an issue so important to us.”

“We now know who to talk to to get things moving,” Peters said. “We’ve been gathering data for three years and getting with engineering firms discussing things like the water table, the water pressure, the size of tanks and pumps, who needs the water, and more.”

Councilor Gene Bennati said he believed the DOT was impressed with the amount of legwork done by the town of Vernon, Salka, Schiebel, and Griffo.

“It was nice to get answers to some of our questions and when they had questions, we had the answers,” Supervisor Randy Watson said. “It hasn’t been that open in the past, but now they want to help as much as they can. It’s nice.”

A former salt barn has been at the center of attention in Vernon Center as residents look for answers to their salty well water.

Vernon Center facility was originally built in the 1950s and used for snow and ice operations. The salt barn used at the facility was built in 1994. The NYSDOT ceased using the city as a salt reloading facility in 2003 and from 2006 to 2008, the Oneida County Department of Public Works used the site for salt reloading. No salt has been on the site since 2008.

A pair of studies into the water from Hamilton College suggests that the salt isn’t from the facility, but rather from naturally occurring salt deposits underground, although researchers said, additional study would be necessary to pinpoint the exact source(s).