The ongoing, epic struggle, to collect a water debt from the City of Rensselaer (the Wateriad?) continues. Sing, goddess, the thirst of Rensselaer!
The City of Rensselaer owes the City of Troy money. How much money is in dispute. Estimates range from $2.6 million to $3.5 million. The fluctuation in debt amount may be due to including interest. Or maybe it's a faulty calculator.
The debt appears to have begun to accumulate 6 years ago (maybe longer), when Rensselaer began a vigorous exercise program that left it dehydrated. Both sides agree that money is owed. It is a substantial debt, whether $2.6 million or $3.5 million.
How did things get so out of hand? Perhaps it was when Virgil Sollozzo arrived in town. Or maybe it was the murder of Sonny. We're not sure. What we do know is that the situation was simply ignored by the previous administration. That was all going to change under Tutunjian.
In his first State of the City address, Tutunjian promised:
But as we search for new revenues an emphasis is also being placed on those who owe us money. They will not be given a free pass, we will not look the other way, and we will be vigilant in collecting outstanding debt. In short, there are no more deals!
In the next few weeks we will finalize a settlement concerning property assessment for the Tomhannock Reservoir. This battle has been waging for years and will bring us a financial gain of more than $1.5 million, and a savings of hundreds of thousands dollars in future years.
We are currently in negotiations with the City of Rensselaer for the services of our water.
The City gladly extends the invitation to continue our relationship, but will do so
remembering that Rensselaer happens to owe us more than one million dollars in past water bills. For the past five years they have not been made to pay that bill. Now, it is money we expect to collect. It is money I know we will collect. - Tutunjian, February 5th, 2004
As we all know, Tutunjian's speeches are probably the most imaginative fiction being written these days. Full of sound and fury, the speech signified nothing. No action was taken to collect the debt. That is not surprising. Other promises in the 2004 speech remain unfulfilled: creating a task force to sell water to surrounding communities as well as having a part-time corporation counsel.
That part-time corporation counsel, by the way, was John Hicks. Hicks, in addition to being the City of Troy's attorney, moonlighted as the City of Rensselaer's Corporation Counsel under Republican Mayor Pratt. No move was made to collect the debt under Rensselaer's GOP leadership.
In fact, the debt received little serious attention until.....we moved into the 2007 election season, with the Tutunjian campaign staying true to it's theme: vultus bonus , operor nusquam.
According the Troy Comptroller, Deborah Witkowski, the failure to obtain the outstanding debt could have severe fiscal implications:
“If this continues there could be a severe cash flow issue in our water fund, after our materials, supplies and salaries,” said city Comptroller Deborah Witkowski. “On paper it won’t be a short fall but if it becomes a cash flow problem I’ll have to come to the council to borrow money.” - The Record, February 20, 2008
Why has Rensselaer been delinquent in it's aquatic obligations? We're not sure. This report, from the New York State Comptroller (through 2004), paints an ugly picture of Rensselaer's finances. We doubt much has changed. If things have changed, or are changing, it may take some time to clean up the mess.
Troy has two realistic options:
1) Proceed with a lawsuit;
2) Settle the debt.
We'll take a look at both options this week.