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Oneidas sponsor local water infrastructure

ONEIDA NATION HOMELANDS, N.Y. - Verona Supervisor David Reed invited Indian Country Today to meet him at the Verona McDonald's for a cup of coffee and a July 22 interview to discuss the Oneida Indian Nation's investment of $23 million in local infrastructure projects. The ironic thing about the invitation was that there is no McDonald's in Verona, N.Y.

In fact, there isn't much of anything in the small Central New York community with the major exception of the Oneida's Turning Stone Casino and Resort.

Reed said businesses haven't come to his town despite the presence of Tuning Stone because of the lack of a reliable water supply and waste water system like the one found in the nearby city of Oneida where numerous businesses have sprung up fueled by casino patrons. The Oneida investment will first build a $13 million, 24-inch water main from the Mohawk Valley Water Authority near Rome, N.Y. while working with the city of Oneida on a $10 million expansion of its sewer facilities to include the casino and Verona.

According to Reed the project is important not only for the important services it will provide to his town and other communities along the water main route, but the new era of cooperation with the Oneida Nation.

"We are trying to show a new kind of leadership of how to deal with the Nation," said Reed. "It's time to step up to the plate and forget the rhetoric and the hatred and learn how to get along together. This is very exciting and we are looking forward to bringing some of the tourism money generated by the casino to the town with the consent and help of the Nation."

Oneida Nation spokesman Jerry Reed confirmed that other communities will be able to get involved and benefit from the water main project. Westmoreland in particular has expressed support for the water project, approved by the Verona town council by a 5-0 vote last month.

"This will have a positive, long-term effect on all of Oneida County," said Jerry Reed. "The Nation is helping to provide a service to those that did not have that service before."

Westmoreland's water district is pushing its limits serving 182 customers, the local school district and two New York State Thruway facilities.

Both Reeds said any opposition to the project has been light and comes from "the usual suspects." David Reed described himself as having led the opposition to the construction of the casino 10 years ago, but later recognized and accepted it because of the positive economic impact to the area - something he said some groups refuse to acknowledge.

"I could send you some of things these people have said about me (on the water project) and you wouldn't believe it," he said.

Final agreements are being negotiated between Verona and the Oneida Nation.