State should investigate Potsdam’s dam disgrace
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 11:59 am

To the Editor:

There is much to write about concerning the Village of Potsdam and its dysfunctional activities –so much so that it is hard to pick out any single one and really lay it out in the open. Watertown Times writers have done a marvelous job of laying our village officials out in lavender on several occasions and on several fronts but they have missed one big one.

That one item is the now defunct piece of village real estate called the West Dam that sits by the river year after year -- sort of our “Haunted House by the River.” That attractive but roofless and windowless building is like a bombed-out ruin, with a backhoe in front of it like some dinosaur skeleton searching for water. All because some parts needed to finish it have not come from its Canadian supplier, and there is little hope that this is ever going to take place.

Do we know much about what is going on or who is to blame? Nah – we get a lot of donkey dust instead of information. Knowing this village government and its habit of holding things under cover -- you know, “gag rules” and all of that -- we hear nothing about the details of much of anything pertaining to this project. So, a number of questions:

(1) Who hired this guy and his firm,, and why was he apparently never under any performance bond? (2) Evidently, some $1 million dollars of our tax money has been expended on this project without any more electricity developed than a warm lightning bug in July. (3) How much was expected in revenue from it when its electrical output was sold and who is making up this shortfall in the village budget? Surely they included that revenue in their budget plans, and I suggest that you and I will pay for it either now or in the future. (4) Why was a Canadian firm hired to do this, when a local one could have done the job? Why not Jim Sheehan, or some other firm in NY or even the entire United States? Why someone in Canada who cannot even be extradited to stand trial? (5) Who will we eventually have to pay to provide the missing parts? Will the village try to float a bond on our overly-taxed backs to make up for their mistakes? Where does the finger of blame eventually point among all our village officials? (6) Just how far in debt are we as a result of all of this?

With all of this now hanging fire and still another winter approaching on a project that is well over two years late, it begs for investigation, and not by anyone in this village that is so well known for its reluctance in telling us much of anything.

We need answers to all these questions, and we need them now. I will go a bit further than that. I am resigned to the fact that our present officials will never really give us all we need to know and that there are some facts that will never be revealed by any local investigative body, unless, of course, a number of those officials resign and “tell all.” Fat chance.

I am therefore going to send a copy of this letter to Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, asking for his help and the investigative powers of his office. I invite all who read this to join me in this effort. Write your own letters to him, and let’s start a long overdue investigation done by an office that is well known for its expertise in defending the public’s interests instead of its own.

Richard Hutchinson, Potsdam