Debate over sewage plan audit contract

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BINGHAMTON, NY – A plan to have an outside firm conduct an audit of the Binghamton Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant is under fire from critics who claim that the company involved cannot be trusted.

Mayor Rich David’s administration wants to pay Veolia North America $66,000 to investigate maintenance operations at the plant and to determine a maintenance plan now that the 275 million dollar rehabilitation of the facility is complete.

But critics say Veolia’s own involvement in the rehab project means the company’s review would not be impartial.

Former City Councilman Dan Livingston says Veolia also expressed interest in running the plant when the city explored privatization in 2019.

Livingston says the audit is likely being used to lay the groundwork for another privatization effort.

“When you’re doing an audit, you want it to be independent. There’s really no way that you can argue that Veolia is independent in this matter. There are dozens of companies that could do an audit like this that have no vested interest in the outcome,” says Livingston.

Last night, City Council Member Aviva Friedman tabled the resolution and requested that Council members be provided a copy of the proposed contract.

Friedman says she supports audits but doesn’t think Veolia is the right choice due to the alleged conflicts.

Mayor David contends that opponents of the contract are spinning a false narrative and that the audit has nothing to do with privatization.

He blames decades of mismanagement and poor maintenance for much of what had to be rebuilt at the plant and says he’s only trying to protect the ratepayers’ 9 digit investment.

“The concept that there are people out there that are saying, ‘No, we’re okay with audits when it comes to the city’s finances or police department, but we’re not okay with auditing the single most expensive investment we’ve ever made in Broome County.’ That just defies logic. It makes no sense. It’s absurd,” says David.

When asked about Veolia’s prior involvement with the plant, David says his critics would have objections to any outside firm he wanted to bring in for an audit.

And he says Council members have all of the pertinent information they need without seeing the actual contract which typically is developed after Council approval.

A special meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6 to vote on the contract.

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