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This stimulus abuse is environmental crime

By   /   January 28, 2010  /   Comments

Editorial

What the city of Albany effectively did through its bogus environmental assessment and in the name of “stimulating” the local economy at taxpayer sacrifice was effectively and willfully violate federal environmental law. That crime should be prosecuted.

Amid the secrecy and shenanigans associated with the city’s proposed $9 million-plus bus transfer facility, the city of Albany would be creating an unnecessary and massive environmental hazard, public records show. Rather than separating sanitary sewer and storm drainage, the city is planning to pave over the sewer system on Booker Alley, which runs east-west under the proposed bus facility, and thus is content with allowing sewage to flow into the Flint River forever, records show.

When city hall falsified documentation to make its case for a so-called “multi-modal” transportation center to be built downtown, the federal government pulled its “stimulus” funding for the project. But, promising to tell the truth this time, City Manager Alfred Lott, continues to vigorously and mysteriously pursue federal funding for the project by producing, at taxpayer expense, independently derived, federally mandated due diligence.

The transfer station would be in Sandy Bottom bordered by Roosevelt Avenue and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks to the north, Flint Avenue to the south, Washington Street on to the east, and Jackson Street to the west. Already, the combined sanitary sewer and storm drainage system under Booker Alley dumps directly into the Flint River during periods of high flow. Astonishingly, the bogus, taxpayer-funded environmental assessment thrown out by the federal government because of the city’s chicanery did not recognize the existence of the 125-year-old sewer system, much less the fact that it has crumbled to the environment’s peril in the past. The assessment also doesn’t contemplate that fully loaded transit buses and commercial coaches would be traveling over the sewer system, which was designed for horse-and-buggies, not 30 34,000-pound buses traveling atop it each day.

The assessment also failed to address the chemical monitoring wells on the site or mention the substructure underneath that has been prone to lime sinks. And it doesn’t mention that Sandy Bottom was a downtown pond before it was drained in the 19th century.

What the city of Albany effectively did through its bogus environmental assessment and in the name of “stimulating” the local economy at taxpayer sacrifice was effectively and willfully violate federal environmental law. That crime should be prosecuted.

A new or even a renovated bus transfer station isn’t mentioned in the city’s long-range transportation plan. Yet, the price tag for a new place to catch the bus mysteriously grew in price virtually overnight last summer from $2.3 million without public input. Meanwhile, more than $100 million of taxpayer funds has been spent on downtown redevelopment.

Before any additional significant expenditure is spent downtown, the aquatic Flint River environment needs to be seriously and – this time – legitimately contemplated.

Kevin By Kevin Hogencamp

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