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Support Bullis in Lysander primary

— I have been a proud resident of Lysander for about two years after having lived and served the people of our northern neighboring county (Oswego) nearly all my adult life as both a police officer (in the city of Fulton) and county legislator. I am also the former legislature chairman of four years. My family chose Lysander because of its’ outstanding school district, its’ close proximity to Syracuse and the town’s consistently low tax rate, among other reasons. We are very encouraged about the future of this town because of its impressive past and strength in its current leadership.

What is not so encouraging, however, is the flair of this particular election season. It is eerily reminiscent of an old horror flick from which one bad demon’s demise only gives rise to another – all in the pretentious spirit of trying to prove why the incumbent should be removed. In this case, enter the candidacy of Republican Fred Burtch in his quest to unseat current town supervisor Barry Bullis in the September primary. Much like death, taxes and lots of snow in Onondaga county, one other thing you can surely count on every election year is the deep, dirty and mostly pathetic rhetoric that goes hand-in-hand with one particular candidate attempting to demonstrate knowledge of wrongdoing by simply casting the incumbent as an evil-doer who will surely bankrupt the town, you, your favorite pet and every living and breathing species on planet earth if re-elected. Seldom is there ever any credibility to such outlandish accusations though.

I do not know either of these two men personally. However, I have had interaction with Mr. Bullis on a couple occasions as it relates to the Whispering Oaks sewer district project. He has been proactively forthright and helpful whenever I have sought information. The current state of the town is absolutely fantastic, and I am particularly pleased with the work both Mr. Bullis and town board member Brian May did in putting the sewer project together and securing grant money to help offset the potentially exorbitant costs to the taxpayers. Thank you!

While it is not likely that Mr. Bullis will find himself as the feature story on America’s Most Wanted anytime soon, it is highly probable that if he is chosen by his fellow Republicans on Sept. 13, and then in the November general election by the people of this great town, he will continue to lead Lysander with a steady hand and we will all be better off for it. Mr. Bullis, I commend you for maintaining the high road in this campaign. You have my vote.

Russ Johnson is a resident of Lysander.

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Comments

newpatriot 2 years, 7 months ago

i can see why you like barry since you are a police officer. barry has been good to the law. he pushed through the barracks on 31 and he pays millions of our dollars to the county/sherriffs from our tax base without a whimper. i know you've been taught to berate suspects in your job because sometimes you need answers and i'm sure barry didn't intend to berate and use his influence with the law against his constituents. i know you mean well but im not sure if you have been in his presence when he has called the police on a whim and they have showed up in force like 5 cars within minutes. do ordinary citizens have that power? I admire you for protecting your own but we also need to protect ourselves. the irony is if he had only just listened to complaints and hadn't used his influence to bring the police in on things-asked for investigations into opposing candidates to use in flyers, nobody would care. It was bound to happen someone would eventually not backdown/take conciliatory job offers, be scared by his police friends. can any of us say we would do the same, Barry created this Lysander hero Fred Burtch.

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jmsml 2 years, 7 months ago

Unless of course the New York State Attorney General gets off his butt and indicts Barry for the long term corrupt organization he runs. I'm saddened by your endorsement of this liar Russ, I used to think better of you.

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turgid 2 years, 7 months ago

How embarrassing for you and your family to promote Mr. Bullis and Mr. May when you bad mouthed each one of them since moving to Lysander. You bought your house in Whispering Oaks for pennies on the dollar because of the sewer issue and the school district. You are barely familiar with the 10 year process that has ended in a DEC consent order and grant but by all mean give credit to Barry and Brian. Don't forget to add Joanie and Rich also. They were all so instrumental in solving the process. You knew nothing of the town politics or the people your are praising. Keep up the good work for them. You make a great pawn.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

Truth trumps LIES every time...

“The Town Soaks the Folks from Whispering Oaks”

Doremus “Jess” Jessup

We’re truly blessed to live in a nation like ours. Regardless of the community in which we reside, the basic needs of all Americans are met. Unlike the citizens of many other countries, we don’t spend our days worrying about whether our families have access to clean water and functioning sewers. Naturally, we tend to take things like good water or working sewers for granted. We simply turn on the tap or flush the toilet and forget about it. What a blessing.

Now, just imagine that you live in one of the many third-world countries that dot our globe. In addition to providing food and shelter for your family every day, you probably have other concerns. You and your children most likely have no access to clean water or working sewers.

Turning on the tap or flushing the toilet may be a pipe dream for you and your kids. Instead, you may spend your days searching for pure water for your family. And, your children may spend their days playing in areas surrounded by open sewers. You may even have to watch where you walk, as your feet could land in raw sewage with every step you take.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Almost fifty per cent of the developing world’s population, 2.5 billion people, lack improved sanitation facilities and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources.” Yes, we are truly blessed.

While this scenario sounds sad, we’re not forced to confront such situations every day. Because it’s so far away and pertains to people we don’t know, we tend to dismiss it as “out of sight, out of mind.” After all, it’s not in our back yard, so why should we worry about it? Well, what affects one of us affects all of us. And third-world countries aren’t the only ones with serious problems. These issues are closer than you think. In fact, they’re right in our back yard.

That’s right. Just take a walk through Whispering Oaks. Whispering Oaks is a cluster of homes that sits on the crest of a hill on Route 370 just west of Emerick Road, where it overlooks the scenic Seneca River.

The development received its first official press back in April of 1987, when Messenger Editor, Al Baker wrote a piece called, “Boom town for new housing.” At this point, please note that David Twichell had been Lysander Town Attorney for four years, a position he still holds today.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

Truth Trumps LIES part two...

Baker reported that Whispering Oaks was one of just four developments under review by the Lysander Planning Board. Developer George Wierzbowski was in the “sketch-plan stage” at the time, but had plans to ultimately build 48 homes on 20,000 square foot lots (about one-half acre) on 61 acres located on the hill opposite the River Mist development.

One sentence in Baker’s story served to foreshadow the future. He stated that, “The tract will be built with ‘dry sewers’ leading to a common leach field, which will serve until public sewers become available sometime in the future.” Note this last clause, as it’s an important one.

Eighteen months later, local realtor Longley-Jones placed the following display ad in the local paper in November of 1988 on behalf of Falcon Builders: “WHISPERING OAKS. If you want country and still want to enjoy the convenience of village living, this may be just what you’re looking for. 1 acre lots, public gas, water, and central sewage….” Again, note this last feature.

Engineered by William Lester of O’Brien & Gere, this “central sewage system” was constructed in 1991 with a capacity of 50 homes for 30 years (2021). At this time, Onondaga County paid the town of Lysander’s sewer district to maintain the pump station for the sewage system.

Skip ahead with me now to 1994. By now the development had been sold and resold to different developers. Likewise, the Messenger had been acquired by Eagle News, after which awarding-winning local editor, Al Baker retired. So, the community exchanged the local newspaper editor it knew and loved well for one it didn’t. Unlike Al Baker, the new editor had no credentials, no experience, and importantly, no roots. But, one of his best friends was Town Attorney, David Twichell. The Eagle editor’s name was David Tyler. Remember it well.

In February of 1994, Eagle News got right to work. In typical fashion, it shamelessly shilled for a local builder in an editorial in exchange for paid advertising. The builder was Ben Wolcik and the development was Whispering Oaks. Wolcik claimed that he had only 5 lots left in Section 1 and 12 lots left in Section 2, because the response had been so “fabulous.”

In this full-page faux editorial, Eagle News lifted the following copy from an article in the National Home Builders’ Magazine: “Once you enter Whispering Oaks, you’ll enjoy the relaxed elegance of the one acre lots, lined with brick paver driveways and the illumination of old fashioned carriage lights with matching cast iron mailboxes.” Apparently, for aesthetic reasons, the article made no mention of the sewage facilities.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

Truth Trumps Lies part 3...

Less than one year later, in December of 1994, Eagle News published a supplement called “Suburban Home.” Once again in exchange for paid advertising, it interviewed a representative of builder, Wolcik and Lovuolo. He stated, “I have to say our greatest accomplishment has been the explosive growth of Whispering Oaks in Baldwinsville. When we opened our first model in 1992, we were told by several people in the industry that we were crazy to build there. Today we have nearly sold out section one and only have six lots left in section two.”

Throughout the 1990’s, Onondaga County monitored the Whispering Oaks sewage system under a contract with the town of Lysander, but the system’s leach field was never maintained. Instead, the town of Lysander left it to nature as a “forever wild zone.”

By 1998, 26 houses had been constructed in Whispering Oaks. It was at this time that the 26 families of Whispering Oaks began to question the soundness of the engineering, construction, and maintenance of the subdivision’s sewage system. Not only did the leach field begin to experience breakouts or spills, but it failed at only half of its expected capacity of 50 homes and only 7 years into its projected 30-year life cycle.

The acid test came in November of 1998, when the local paper reported that “Sewage Concerns Whispering Oaks.” The article stated that, “Residents of Whispering Oaks housing tract off Route 370 west of Baldwinsville want to know what contingency plans exist in case their private sewage system breaks down.” After a Labor Day storm had cut electricity to the neighborhood for 24 hours, “the county’s drainage and sanitation department pumped out the system several times.” The residents were right to worry that the system might malfunction in an emergency.

But Town Supervisor Barry Bullis, who had been in office since 1995, came to the rescue that November in 1998. Forgive me, but this becomes a recurring theme in the story. According to this same article, Bullis directed Town Engineer Robert Hornaday to look into the cost of back-up equipment for the system, including a generator. Bullis promised that the town board would have cost estimates for back-up apparatus by the next meeting in December of 1998.

In late December of 1998, Hornaday gave the town board an update of the study of a potential pump station for Whispering Oaks. According to the local paper, “the next step is to send out a letter to residents in that sewer district soliciting feedback regarding options and costs.”

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

Truth Trumps LIES part 4...

In February of 1999, the local paper published a story entitled, “Whispering Oaks generator would cost $55,000” as a back-up for power outages. The alternative to a generator for a pumping station was a portable, trailer-mounted bypass pumping unit, which homeowners could purchase for $8,500 from the Onondaga County Department of Drainage and Sanitation.

The generator would sit next to the existing pumping station on Ashington Drive. Or, “the portable generator unit would be brought to the pump station site on an as-needed basis for pumping sewage out of the wet well into the force main which discharged into the leach field.”

In March of 1999, the local paper reported that the residents of Whispering Oaks were divided regarding the two options for the pumping station. A survey by the town revealed that while some were in favor of the standby generator, others favored a portable bypass pump. Still others were in favor of neither. As the survey deadline neared, 15 families had responded.

But by the end of 1999, both the sewer system study and survey had stalled. Still, there was no resolution to the sewage problem in Whispering Oaks, other than digging a stone perimeter trench. But the developer continued to sell lots and the town continued to issue building permits. Yet, 1 more house was added to the system in 1999, followed by 3 more in 2000.

In 2000, the town and county again decided to leave the leach field to nature as a “forever wild zone,” rather than maintaining it for the residents of Whispering Oaks. With no intervention by either the town or country, the leach field continued to break out repeatedly.

Since the developer continued to sell lots and the town continued to issue building permits, 2 more houses were added to the failed system in 2001, bringing the total to 32 homes. So, the burden on an already over-burdened sewage system only became heavier.

One family purchased the home adjacent to the leach field in the summer of 2002. And, so began a saga of the helplessness and desperation of this family on the one hand, and the unresponsiveness and inertia on of the town of Lysander on the other hand.

Because both the county and town had left the leach field to nature, the lot next-door was overgrown with weeds, reeds, trees, and sumac. On a positive note, the lot was also a home to various forms of wildlife, including skunks, groundhogs, possums, and snakes.

The dad decided to clear some of the debris that had encroached on his property line. These efforts required the use of both chain-saw and axe, and took the life of one power mower.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 5...

More important, he frequently found himself shin-deep in muck and mire, which he assumed was composed of water and mud. It wasn’t. Whenever the sewage pumps were in operation, he was greeted with an upwelling of raw, untreated sewage. Because no one had bothered to inform him when he purchased the property, he didn’t realize it was a leach field until then.

It was also at this point that the cesspools on the leach had begun to spill over into his property, he purchased topsoil. He filled in the low areas with this topsoil before seeding the land, and used more to contract a berm and flower bed along the property line between his lot and the leach field next-door. This slowed the flow of raw sewage into his property, but didn’t stop it.

In addition to filling, seeding, and planting, the dad planted shrubs, plants, and other ground cover, both to slow the flow of sewage and to hide the sight of the cesspool from his house. He pursued these efforts alone. The leach field was never maintained by the county or the town.

Because the developer became insolvent, the Whispering Oaks Development Corporation was now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the original lender, Pathfinder Bank. The homeowner contacted John Devlin, a Pathfinder vice president, and showed him the leach field breakouts.

On March 28, 2003, Pathfinder BanCorp filed its annual 10-K form for the calendar year 2002 with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). In this form, the bank classified the Whispering Oaks development as a “non-performing asset.” In common vernacular, this is what we refer to as a “money pit” and occasionally in even more colorful terms.

According to the bank’s 2003 filing, “This subsidiary (Whispering Oaks Development Corp.) is currently inactive….This subsidiary was initially capitalized with $50,000 in cash. It is anticipated that this capitalization, together with interim financing to be provided by the Bank, will be sufficient to complete and liquidate this asset. At December 31, 2002, the Bank had 10 lots remaining to be sold.”

About this same time, this homeowner contacted the Onondaga County Health Department. He showed three employees the leach field breakouts. While they indicated that breakouts had occurred in the past, they seemed surprised that they were still happening. This observation, combined with his own experience, led the homeowner to conclude that neither the town nor the county had monitored the Whispering Oaks leach field at any time during the past 5 years.

About this time, an Onondaga County maintenance worker adjusted the flow of sewage to the beds from the distribution boxes. But these efforts were fruitless, so the Onondaga County Health Department indicated that it was working with the town of Lysander and the owner, Pathfinder BanCorp to remedy the situation. Nothing was done for nearly a year.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 6...

So, the homeowner again reached out in the spring of 2004. He contacted the Code Enforcement Officer, Tax Assessor, and Town Engineer, all of the town of Lysander. And, he again contacted the Onondaga County Health Department and the owner, Pathfinder BanCorp.

With the exception of the county, none of these entities took any action. But even the county’s adjustment of the flows to various beds in the leach field failed to prevent further breakouts or eliminate any standing cesspools. With no options, the homeowner tried to maintain his lot and the one next-door to the best of his ability, the presence of raw sewage notwithstanding.

The homeowner waited yet another year for the town or county to take action, but they didn’t. Finally, a contractor showed up unannounced with a backhoe in February of 2005. His efforts actually caused more breakouts than before, and tore the land up in the process.

So, the homeowner reached out once again in the spring of 2005. He again contacted the Code Enforcement Officer, Tax Assessor, and Town Engineer, all of the town of Lysander. He also contacted the Onondaga County Health Department and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Yet another contractor arrived to perform remediation work in the summer of 2005. Similar to efforts in 1999, he installed trenches along 3 of the beds in the leach field. Shortly thereafter, 3 other beds suffered breakouts. But this time the consequences were much more serious.

This time the breakouts were so significant enough to cause raw sewage to flow freely into the storm drains of Whispering Oaks. So, the homeowner furnished the DEC with photographs of raw sewage flowing into storm drains. In response, the DEC representative stated that he cannot be “concerned with the safety of you or your family, but only the environment.”

Regardless of the obvious environmental threat to the poor skunks, groundhogs, possums, and snakes, the DEC referred the homeowner to the Onondaga County Health Department. So once again, the homeowner contacted the county any time breakouts occurred and again, the county adjusted flows to the various beds to minimize both breakouts and standing cesspools.

So, the homeowner played the waiting game for yet another year. After waiting for the town or county to take action for one more year, the homeowner finally filed a complaint in the spring of 2006 with the office of then Onondaga County Executive, Nick Pirro.

About the same time, the Code Enforcement Officer of the town of Lysander informed the homeowner that he had no jurisdiction over the matter. He referred the homeowner to Town Supervisor, Barry Bullis. When contacted again by the homeowner, the county insisted that it had been working for some time with the town of Lysander on a solution to the sewage issue.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 7...

Once again, the county adjusted flows to the various beds to minimize both breakouts and standing cesspools, but to no avail. Beyond that, neither the town nor county took any action. 5 houses had been added to a failed sewer system in the past 5 years, because Pathfinder Bancorp continued to sell lots and the town of Lysander continued to issue building permits.

Throughout the summer, fall, and winter of 2007, the homeowner continued to contact all relevant parties, including the Code Enforcement Officer and Engineer of the town of Lysander, the Onondaga County Health Department, the New York State Health Department and the DEC.

For their part, the county continued to adjust flows to the various beds to minimize both breakouts and standing cesspools. Just as before, these efforts addressed the symptoms, but not the underlying causes. Throughout 2007, raw, untreated sewage continued to flow undeterred throughout the streets and into the storm drains of Whispering Oaks.

continued...

I began the first part of this story by stating how truly blessed we are to be born in a nation where we don’t have to worry about whether our kids have access to clean water and functioning sewers. We simply turn on the tap or flush the toilet and forget about it.

But, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet may be a pipe dream for folks who live in third-world countries, and in one nearby neighborhood called Whispering Oaks. Whispering Oaks is a cluster of homes that sits on the crest of a hill on Route 370 west of Baldwinsville, where it overlooks the scenic Seneca River. The developer first broke ground circa 1990.

The development’s sewage system was constructed in 1991. It was engineered to support a total of 50 homes for 30 years. By 1998, 26 homes had been constructed and connected to the system. It was then, at only half of its capacity of 50 homes and only seven years into its thirty-year life-cycle that the system began to fail. Cesspools started to form in the leach field.

For the next nine years breakouts and spillovers of raw sewage became more frequent, and the cesspools continued to collect in the leach field. And for the next nine years, the neighbor next-door contacted a number of agencies, including the Code Enforcement Officer and Engineer of the town of Lysander, the Onondaga County Health Department, the New York State Health Department and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Most did next to nothing.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 8...

Unfortunately for the folks of Whispering Oaks, 2007 passed in much the same fashion. The county adjusted flows to the leach field beds to minimize both breakouts and standing cesspools. These efforts addressed the symptoms, but not the underlying causes. So by 2007, raw, untreated sewage had flowed unabated and undeterred for nine years throughout the streets and into the storm drains of Whispering Oaks. And, that’s where the story stopped.

On February 1, 2008, the New York State DEC wrote the following letter to Barry Bullis:

Re: Whispering Oaks

Dear Supervisor Bullis and Town Board members:

On January 31, 2008, Department staff inspected the Whispering Oaks Sewer District. The leach field had failed, and water was observed flowing up from the ground surface. Further, an area of water had frozen on the field. This is a violation of Article 17, Section 0501 of the Environmental Conservation Law.

Please provide us the Town’s schedule for returning to compliance by February 15, 2008. Feel free to contact this office should there be any questions.

Sincerely


Environmental Engineer II

Cc: Onondaga Co. Health Dept.

Finally in the spring of 2008, the Lysander town board met in March and April to discuss corrective options. And Jean Smiley, Deputy Onondaga County Executive for Physical Services, wrote on behalf of the town and county government that it was the intent of both to connect with the Harbour Heights Sewage Pumping Station on the south side of the Seneca River.

In a subsequent meeting, residents of Whispering Oaks voted to proceed with the connection, as this was apparently the preferred option by the town’s engineering firm, Barton & Loguidice, the town itself, and the county. As we all know, however, appearances can be deceiving.

While connecting to the pumping station across the river was, in fact, the preferred option by all, the residents themselves would bear most of the financial burden. The town of Lysander would contribute a small portion for over-size piping, and the county would contribute nothing.

By the summer of 2008, the Lysander Town Board had approved this corrective action plan developed by town and county representatives. But, breakouts, spillovers, and standing cesspools were still a common, if not daily occurrence in the neighborhood of Whispering Oaks.

Then for some inexplicable reason, the project was halted by the newly-elected Onondaga County Executive, Joanie Mahoney in the fall of 2008. By the time most residents discovered that the project had stalled, the town should have broken ground. One resident even heard the news from a town board member at a school play where children of both were performing.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 9...

By the summer of 2009, the desperate folks of Whispering Oaks wrote the following letter to everyone who was anyone, including State Senator John DeFrancisco, among dozens of others:

July 8, 2009

I am writing to request help with an issue with the public sewer system in my neighborhood. For the past 6 years, I have been patiently corresponding and talking with the Onondaga County Public Health Department and officials of the Town of Lysander. I have asked for help from the DEC, State Health Department, Onondaga Executives Office, Onondaga County Legislature representatives and still nothing has been accomplished.

A plan was developed and accepted by the town, county and residents of the sewer district. This plan alone would cost each resident of the district $30,000.00. The implementation was underway in 2008 but was stopped when Mrs. Mahoney became the new County Executive. It is my current understanding that it is in limbo with the hopes of Federal Stimulus Money supposedly resurrecting it at some later date.

Six years later, sewage still flows onto my property every spring and fall. It still flows into the storm water drainage system. It is still forms standing cesspools on the property adjacent to mine. This spring brought 5 cesspools of varying sizes. Currently, only 2 larger cesspools remain due to the dryer and warmer summer conditions.

What does a citizen, taxpayer, and voter have to do to get this issue resolved? Who will be responsible when my family becomes injured or sick because of this? Why is it okay in 2009 that my family lives next to open cesspools of raw sewage?


According to one resident, Barry Bullis responded to this letter-writing campaign in a town board meeting with what can only be called “legal and financial threats or a litany of probable DEC actions against the town, but primarily against the folks of Whispering Oaks themselves.

This particular board meeting occurred on August 10, 2009. According to one resident there: particular meeting, I didn't sleep much at all.  My mind was racing.  Barry threw all the "fear" he could at us that night.  What a jerk!  It would have stopped me, but NOT ____.  He kept complaining and would not sit down or shut up.  By this time, I was too afraid to do anything.  Barry's fear had worked on me.  I was paralyzed.

In the fall of 2009, Onondaga County Legislator, Rich Lesniak invited residents to a meeting with Joanie Mahoney and her staff. This invitation, sent by Barry Bullis, read in part:

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 10...

TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE WHISPERING OAKS SEWER DISTRICT

Dear Resident:

As you may already know, the connection of the ailing Whispering Oaks Community Septic System to the public sewer system continues to be a concern. Many at the Town and County level have been working to evaluate different options for addressing this problem. Our County Legislator, Rich Lesniak, has been instrumental in arranging a meeting with county officials to review the status of the town’s request to connect to the Harbor Heights Pumping Station. The meeting will be held on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 3:00 PM at the Office of the County Executive, 14th floor, Civic Center, 421 Montgomery St., Syracuse. County Executive Joanie Mahoney has asked that all residents of Whispering Oaks be invited to attend. I realize that not everyone may be able to attend, however I am in hopes that many of you will be able to join us for this important meeting….

Regards, Barry Bullis, Town Supervisor

Assuming that this could be a milestone in their long and painful ordeal, the residents knew that nothing could be decided by either the town or the county in the absence of the DEC. When she discovered that no one had bothered to invite a representative of the DEC to attend this important meeting, one resident urgently contacted the DEC that same day, but in vain:

September 25, 2009

Dear Mr. (Ken) Lynch (Region 7 Director, DEC),   Thank you for returning my phone call this morning.  Here is the invitation to the meeting at Ms. Mahoney's office.  The invitation was sent to us by Barry Bullis' office at Ms. Mahoney's request.  I know you said you would contact her office for the information, but I thought I'd send it to you so you could read it.   I do hope a DEC representative will be able to attend this meeting since the DEC is a critical cog in this process.  As you said, this can't move forward without the DEC's approval - so I implore your attendance.   Respectfully, ____

On September 25, 2009, at Mr. Lesniak’s request, ten homeowners from Whispering Oaks met with Assistant County Executive Fisher, Water Environment Protection (WEP) Commissioner Pastella, Ms. Mahoney, Ms. Smiley, Mr. Lesniak, Lysander Town Engineer Knutsen, and Mr. Bullis, among others. Mr. Fisher facilitated the meeting at the request of Joanie Mahoney.

The county presented the pros and cons of two options to the homeowners: connecting across the Seneca River to the Harbor Heights pumping station, and traveling east on Route 370 to connect with the Baldwinsville system on the western edge of the village near Dexter Parkway.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 11...

Based on the number of cons that the town attributed to the Harbor Heights option, it was clear that both the county and town preferred the other option. This caused an enormous amount of distress to the folks from Whispering Oaks, because the town had already allowed them to vote for the Harbor Heights option, which was about one-third the cost of the other.

I’ve listened to a tape of the meeting. The tension in the room is palpable and you can hear the strain in the voices of the homeowners. They desperately tried to understand this most recent reversal in the face of years of delay, but the effort took its toll. Two residents spoke first:

1) Just for clarification for the timeline, we had a plan (I see the packet sitting here), the residents had two town meetings, and we voted on a plan under the assumption (since county officials were there), and with Jean’s (Smiley’s) knowledge that we were moving in this direction. The town had town meetings to do the town stuff associated with public comment and such in August 2008 and we’re sitting here in September 2008, backwards…

2) …Still with raw sewage in Lysander, every day, dry season, summer, winter, spring, and it does overflow into the storm drains (and we have sent the DEC documentation for that). And, this is a daily thing. It’s not a seasonal thing. It’s not every now and then. It certainly affects our property moreso than everybody else because they don’t actually have it (raw sewage) running on their driveway and sitting in pools.

Predictably, it didn’t take long for the meeting to rewind to a decade earlier. A solution-seeking discussion soon gave way to a search for blame. The homeowners had been told that their homes were on public sewers when they purchased their property. A third resident spoke:

3) And, when I bought my house all the real estate paperwork said “sewers,” it didn’t say “public septic” or “group septic,” everything said “sewers.” So, when I bought my house there was no issue relative to the septic system.

Barry Bullis responded by blaming the two easiest targets in town for the entire Whispering Oaks debacle, the local realtors who sold the property and the homeowners who bought it:

Mrs. ____, every time the town approves a new subdivision and the bulldozers roll in to start building my phone rings off the hook from people saying when I bought my place my realtor told me nothing would ever be built there. And, they believed them. They never checked further. It simply says “sewer connection.”

The residents, frustrated even further, made it clear that they wanted solutions, not blame:

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 12...

Yeah, but on this, Barry, how would we check, how would we even begin to check? 14 years ago or 12 years ago when I bought my house, who would have believed that I would have to check to see that it’s truly on a sewer, how would I even do that? None say “community septic.” So, we bought into a situation that we have to tackle, obviously. But, we weren’t aware of what we were buying into and maybe that’s a “buyer beware” deal. I don’t know, but I certainly did not have any reason to believe it wasn’t a public sewer.

For her part, Joanie Mahoney pledged she would be working personally, but the folks from Whispering Oaks felt that they were now further from a solution than they had been in 2008. Some of these folks were entering their tenth year of coping with raw sewage in their streets.

One would think that the town board would empathize with the homeowners at this point, and show some compassion. Instead, it was disinterested, even condescending. In one 2010 board meeting, Councilman Brian May claimed ignorance of the whereabouts of Whispering Oaks.

One homeowner, confusing him with Councilman Art Levy, fired off a furious letter to Mr. Levy. Rather than try to address the underlying cause for concern, Mr. Levy instead fired back a very callous response. The homeowner, who was at the breaking point, let Mr. Levy have it:

February 2, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Levy, for correcting me. I am very happy that my email has served a purpose and has everyone's attention.

Now, please put as much interest and hopefully more time and energy into a long standing and plaguing problem at Whispering Oaks. Since you know where we live, maybe you could manage a right turn into Whispering Oaks while on your way to Cross Lake. Since you are genuinely interested in correcting "the record," please continue to dig through meeting transcripts and you might discover that there has been a long standing issue with a sewer odor in Whispering Oaks, which dates back to before I moved here in 2003.

I could explain my errors in my initial email by coming up with excuses for my lack of knowledge of Board members or I could use an explanation that causation was from total shock while standing before the Town of Lysander Board and receiving little to no information, or, I could explain it from the lack of communication, lack of knowledge and foot dragging by the Town of Lysander on this since the County identified for the Town and the Town's Engineers, (Barton and Loguidice) some potential issues and requirements needed prior to any consideration for connection to the County Public System. Need I go on?

Are you reading the frustration? Now that we have some communication going, just what is it that you, a Councilman and the Town of Lysander Board, plan on doing? ......and please continue to copy everyone in.

My position does not change nor does my question: “What the hell is going on?”

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 13...

For its part, the town of Lysander did nothing, short of sending a letter to all the homeowners of Whispering Oaks requesting that they schedule a home inspection with the Onondaga County WEP. Although this was an action item from the meeting with Joanie Mahoney on September 25, 2009, the letter wasn’t sent until February 5, 2010. Some of these folks were now entering their eleventh year of life among the cesspools and raw sewage in the streets.

In the spring of 2010, the county determined that the system was overloaded by freshwater infiltration of home hook-ups to the sanitary sewer system. But, it calculated that discharges from the residents’ water softeners and sump pumps contributed only 5% to the total overflow.

On May 28, 2010, the New York State DEC wrote the following letter to Barry Bullis:

Re: Whispering Oaks Sewer District (DEC Case No. R7-20100519-36)

Dear Supervisor Bullis:

Enclosed is a proposed consent order to address the environmental violations resulting from the failing sewage disposal system at the referenced facility.

To resolve the violations in this matter without formal enforcement action, please have the enclosed consent order signed before a notary public by the appropriate Town official and return it to my attention by June 15, 2010.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation. Please contact me at ____ if you have questions or wish to discuss the terms of this order.

Sincerely


Assistant Regional Attorney

By the summer of 2010, three more major outbreaks from the sewage system created large, standing cesspools in Whispering Oaks. Because neither the town nor county took action, the residents themselves were forced to fill the area with soil and compact it to address the issue.

Due to the continuing breakouts, raw sewage continued to flow into the storm drains, and in turn, into the Seneca River. As a result, the DEC issued a consent order to the town of Lysander and the residents of the Whispering Oaks sewer district were collectively fined by the state.

The Messenger published an article on July 23, 2010, entitled “DEC fines Lysander Residents.” According to the article, “Residents of Whispering Oaks in Lysander have been fined $450 by the Department of Environmental Conservation for sewage violations that occurred at the neighborhood’s septic system located on Ashington Drive. The 48 households within the Whispering Oaks sewage district will also be held financially responsible for clean-up, short-term mitigation and a long-term solution. The total cost is conservatively estimated to exceed $850,000….Every nickel will be the responsibility of residents within the sewer district.” That amount equates to an average of about $18,000 per family. No residents were interviewed.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 14...

A follow-up article in the same paper appeared on July 27, 2010. Entitled “Solutions offered to Lysander neighborhood’s sewage problem,” the sub-heading stated that “Whispering Oaks residents could pay thousands over time.” This local article stated the following:

“Two long-term solutions have been proposed. The first option is to install a 4,400 foot force main under Seneca River to connect the Whispering Oaks sewer district with the Harbor Heights pump station in Van Buren. This method would require significant upgrades to the pump station to accommodate the increase flow, including installation of bigger pumps, upgrades to the electrical system, and a new odor control building. The town of Lysander estimates the cost at $940,000 or $1,238 annually per household for 30 years. For the same project, the county gives an overall estimate of $1.2 million, or $24,000 total per household.”

The article went on to say that, “The second alternative would connect the Whispering Oaks sewer district to the trunk sewer at the foot of Artillery Lane in the Village of Baldwinsville. This option coincides with the county’s existing 2010 Comprehensive Plan, which extend(s) sewers west on Route 370, and would allow an additional 250 hookups along the line….Both the town and the county put the cost of the Route 370 option at $1.8 million. Lysander predicts this will run each household an annual $1,852 for 30 years, while the county projects that residents will pay only $6,000 in total.”

“A 12-year resident of Whispering Oaks who asked to remain anonymous said homeowners there are furious about the entire situation. To-be residents were told that the houses they purchased were hooked up to a public sewer, not a community septic system.”

“‘We were lied to,’ the source said. ‘We didn’t design it, we didn’t build it, but we’re being punished for it. The town hasn’t done a thing, the bill keeps getting higher, and now the DEC is fining us. We’re between a rock and a hard place, and nothing is even getting done yet.’”

By this time, all offending sump pumps and water softeners had been disconnected from the system. Again, this addressed only 5% of the problem. So, the town board authorized Barton & Loguidice, the Town Engineer to spend up to $75,000 to respond to the DEC consent order.

On September 9, 2010, town and county officials met with residents to discuss an upgrade that was now estimated to cost them “nearly $2 million.” The residents present were presented with no options. Instead, they were told in no uncertain terms that what the town would do.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 15...

Rather than travel under the Seneca River to the Harbor Heights pumping station, as originally planned by the town and voted by the homeowners, the Whispering Oaks Sewage System would now connect with the system serving Baldwinsville. No rationale was offered or given.

The residents of Whispering Oaks residents were not allowed to vote for this option. Not only was the homeowners’ input ignored, but the town continued to blame them for this issue. In fact, I transcribed the following exchange verbatim from a tape of the meeting on September 9:

Resident 1 – Did the health department approve this system?

County Rep – Yes.

Resident 1 – Did the county approve this system?

County Rep – The health department is part of the county.

Resident 1 – So, it’s an approved system that should be working?

County Rep – Yes, it met design standards, yes.

Resident 2 – And, in what year did it first begin to fail? Was it in 1998?

Barry Bullis – 1998, Yes.

Resident 2 – In what year was the last building permit issued on a failing system?

Barry Bullis – 2006.

Resident 2 – …2006 on a failing system, and I live with cesspools every day….

Barry Bullis – You know, we can talk about the past all you want….

Resident 2 – I just want to make sure everybody understands, because everybody doesn’t seem to understand.

County Rep – But over that time period, we were very active….We were actively trying to remediate this issue along with the town, O’Brien & Gere, Barton & Loguidice….We were actively trying to fix the issues that were happening here.

Resident 2 – I disagree. I disagree. I just disagree.

Resident 3 – But, why more houses if it’s failed?

Barry Bullis – That was the decision that was made then. We can’t go back and fix that. We can’t turn back the clock.

Resident 2 – But, we have to pay for it now?

Barry Bullis – You would have either way.

Resident 2 - Not if we had stopped building on a failing system.

Barry Bullis – But, now there are more people to share in the costs with you.

Resident 2 – So, it’s more profitable for us, oh very!

Resident 1 – But, why wouldn’t the county be responsible for that?

Barry Bullis – Because, because, because they’re not.

Resident 4 – If you were the CEO of a company, your stockholders would throw you out of here right now. You have got to be kidding me. There’s more people now to share in the costs? That is just preposterous! That is just totally preposterous! If you ran a company that way, you’d be out of business! It does not make sense!

Barry Bullis – What would you propose that I have done?

Resident 2 – Well, it was failing and you knew that it was failing….

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 16...

In October of 2010, the town of Lysander published its “Map and Plan” for “Whispering Oaks Sewer District Improvements” on the town’s website. The town board had authorized Town Engineer, Barton & Loguidice, on June 14, 2010, to prepare the document. It states in part:

The Whispering Oaks residential subdivision is currently served by a community septic system that was constructed in 1991. The system is comprised of one (1) 16,000 gallon septic tank, a duplex gray water “dosing” pump station, and a total of eight (8) absorption beds (collectively referred to as a leach field). The Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection (OCDWEP) operates and maintains the pump station under contract agreement with the Town of Lysander; OCDWEP does not maintain the leach field.

The leach field has historically suffered from grey water outbreaks dating back as far as April 2001. These outbreaks continue to occur as a result of seasonal high water tables and possible hydraulic overloading and/or blinding of the beds. Efforts to mitigate the outbreaks, including resting of beds for a period of time and construction of perimeter cut-off trenches in an effort to lower the local water table, have shown only marginal results.

Apparently, the land on which the neighborhood sits suffers from seasonal high water tables. Onondaga County agrees, and attributes a related problem common to the area. In the meeting of September 9, 2010, a county engineer referred to it as “groundwater mounding.”

Groundwater mounding is familiar to locals, too, especially those who farm the land. According to one local, longtime farmer, the land under Whispering Oaks was always way too wet to farm:

How did Whispering Oaks ever pass a perk test in the beginning? We farmed the old McDonald Farm for several years. When we heard it was going to be houses, we couldn't believe it. Only parts of Radisson were wetter. That farm never drained. We had to have a heavy freeze to even get to the back field to harvest beans. A truck never moved on that farm without being pushed by our dozer or pulled with a chain. The real crime is who passed this perk test for even a temporary septic system. Where the leach field is located is the worst part of the farm for drainage. Is this by chance only? I doubt it. The McDonalds moved their farming operation because they couldn't grow any crops there and make a living. I think Wilcox Auctioneers then ended up with it. We also stopped farming there because it was too wet.

Regardless of the facts that no system of any kind should have been built there, the Barton and Loguidice “Map and Plan” states that, “Four (4) alternatives were evaluated for resolving the problems associated with the existing Whispering Oaks sewage disposal system:

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps lies part 17...

A. New Community Absorption Bed; B. Force Main to Proposed Highland Meadows Subdivision; C. Force Main to Onondaga County Harbour Heights Station; and D. Force Main to West Genesee Street Trunk Sewer.”

The Barton and Loguidice “Map and Plan” ultimately recommends alternative “D,” a force main to the West Genesee Street Trunk Sewer on the western edge of the village of Baldwinsville near Artillery Lane. According to the document, “it was determined that Alternative D represents the most cost-effective, sustainable scenario for addressing the short and long-term needs of the Whispering Oaks Sewer District and surrounding environs in the Town.”

Barton and Loguidice estimates that this “cost-effective” solution would require approximately $1,210,000 in 2011 dollars. According to the map and plan, the town of Lysander would bear only $190,000 of this expense. Whispering Oaks residents would pay $1,020,000, or $21,250 per household. Under various financing scenarios posed by the town’s engineering firm, the 48 homeowners would annually pay either $1,711 for 20 years at 4%, or $968 for 30 years at 0%.

This second payment option of “Hardship Financing,” or 0% interest for 30 years, is contingent upon approval by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, whose website features the slogan, “providing low-cost financing and technical assistance to municipalities, businesses and state agencies for environmental projects.”

It’s important to note that, other than this hardship financing, the Barton and Loguidice Map and Plan of October 2010 mentions no other public funding or grants of any kind. But somehow, a source of funding appeared suddenly and mysteriously less than 30 days later.

You won’t find it mentioned anywhere on the town of Lysander website, in any of the town board’s meeting minutes, or in any other local press, including newspapers, radio, or TV media. In fact, the “Notice of Public Hearing” of November 5, 2010, on the town’s website states only:

TOWN OF LYSANDER NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING WHISPERING OAKS SEWER DISTRICT

Please Take Notice that the Lysander Town Board will meet at the Town Hall, 8220 Loop Road, Baldwinsville, NY, in the Town of Lysander, on the 18th day of November, 2010, at 7:01 o'clock P.M., prevailing time, for the purpose of conducting a public hearing, pursuant to Town Law Section 202-b, at which time all interested persons will be heard, to consider the increase and improvement of the facilities of the Whispering Oaks Sewer District, in the Town of Lysander….at a maximum estimated project cost of $1,210,000. The maximum estimated cost includes $190,000….which additional cost is proposed to be a Town charge pursuant to the provisions of Section 192-a of the Town Law.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES part 18...

But on Saturday, November 13, 2010, the Messenger featured an exclusive story on its website:

Lysander sewer project awarded $1.2M grant Public hearing held for Whispering Oaks Sewer district Thursday

Residents in Whispering Oaks can rest easy.

The development, which has struggled with a failing sewer system for more than a decade and was recently fined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for raw sewage draining into the Seneca River, has received a New York State Water Quality Improvement Program grant totaling $1.24 million. The grant will help cover the cost of connecting the Whispering Oaks Sewer District to the West Genesee Sewer District including the installation of a six-inch, 9,700-foot force main running along Route 370 from the Whispering Oaks development to the southern end of Dexter Parkway. Without the grant, residents of the development would have been responsible for the entire cost of the project….A public hearing regarding the Whispering Oaks Sewer District improvements will be held at 7:01 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 18) at the Lysander Town Hall, 8220 Loop Road in Radisson. Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting and speak either in favor or against the proposed project.

Not only was this $1.2 million grant unmentioned by the town of Lysander and unknown to any other local press, including newspapers, radio, or TV media, but it was news to the residents of Whispering Oaks, too. When asked whether she knew, one shocked homeowner responded:

November 15, 2010

NO.  We did not know.  They mentioned rounds of grants at meetings before but until we got fined by the DEC, we didn't have enough "points" to get a grant.  The latest fines upped our "points" and so... we got the grant!  Did we?  Did we get the grant???!!!  I think so.  I don't know.  No town word on it, just Erin from the Messenger.  Oye Vey! We found out from ___.  He called us and told us of the Messenger article.  I immediately read it while _ talked to _.  I couldn't believe what I was reading!  I still don't believe it.  You would think, with all the crying we have been doing, someone would have called us or notified us or something.  Once again, nothing.  I don't even trust it is real since it was printed in the Messenger.  I'll wait until the meeting and hear what they say.  I'll believe that grant when I see it. Now, it seems the points made the grant possible.  If we hadn't complained (and provided proof with pictures), there wouldn't be any added points, and no grant….Barry wanted us to be quiet about it all.  He wanted us to stop complaining to the DEC and everyone else.  He said we were making it worse.  I would bet my home that the next thing he does is ask us to THANK him.  I will not.  He tried to scare and intimidate us into being quiet.  He should be ashamed of himself.  If he had only done his job properly YEARS AGO...

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES final part 19... (thank you for your patience)

this all could have been handled above board and quickly.  Nope... we did it Barry-style here in Lysander!  Slow, scary and painful. I'm rambling.  No... no one from the town told us or gave us the heads up on the grant.  We got the news from _.  I thank him because it was a real bright spot for me.  I'm not holding my breath just yet, but for the first time in a LONG time I have a little hope! I don't think anything would be happening with our issue at all if we didn't have the support of our community. I can't thank you enough for lending us your talent and time.  This is my life, not just an issue.  _ was right; sometimes you can't do it alone or be an island….We can see that the town timed the grant news perfectly too.  Don't you think?

The preceding paragraphs comprise the second part of a sad but true, two-part story. ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU WOULD DO IF THIS WERE YOU? Those unwilling to educate themselves on this issue shouldn't speak, certainly not lie about it. Thank you.

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KnoMe2X 2 years, 7 months ago

TRUTH Trumps LIES

FINAL THOUGHT...

Thank you, New York State, for picking up the tab on this mess. If you are angry about it, please contact Barry Bullis at 638-0224.

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Truth 2 years, 7 months ago

BARRY should be in charge of the sewage treatment plant,

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