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Debate Raging In Nassau County Over Turning Public Sewer System Private

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A multi-million dollar deal is in the works that could turn Nassau County's public sewer system private, but will a private company running the service cost taxpayers more?

A debate is now raging.

Merrick homeowner Claudia Borecky is worried about her sewer taxes. If Nassau's system goes private as part of the proposed $750 million deal, she said they'll rise like her water rates did when that went private.

"The investor has to make a profit...the sewer rates will be skyrocketing for the next 50 to 100 years," Borecky told CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff.

But Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said going private is Nassau's best way out of staggering debt -- the highest in the state. Nassau sewers, he said, are broken and polluting waterways.

Mangano's fix?

Nassau would still own the treatment plants, but let private industry, United Water, run them. A third party, an investor, would fund the deal.

"They would be required to make the needed improvements. My plan will freeze rates through 2015," Mangano said.

But critics contend it's another one-shot budget fix and that any private investor will require profits.

"That means an average sewer tax increase of at least four percent every year for 20 years. The people will pay, the county executive will say 'Well I didn't raise your taxes,'" said county legislator David Denenberg.

"This is akin to the county refinancing debt at a higher interest rate and passing on that debt to consumers," said Sam Bernhardt, of Food and Water Watch.

However, Mangano said rates will not skyrocket because there will be a cap in place. He said the option of doing nothing will leave with county with a bankrupt sewer system in two years.

Nassau is hosting public information hearings throughout the month for residents to learn more about proposal before it's voted on.

The hearings will take place on May 9th at Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant, on May 16th at Bay Park sewage treatment plant and May 17th at the legislative building in Mineola. All the hearings will be at 6 p.m.

Share your thoughts on the proposal in the comments section below...

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