Orange County, NY - The Orange County Legislature's recent decision to accept the Amended Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Orange County Sewer District No. 1 upgrade has led to County Executive Edward Diana's arbitrary and unilateral decision to quietly drop the six-year lawsuit against the Kiryas Joel pipeline, which will unalterably affect this county for years to come.

As a former legislator, current town supervisor and county resident, I am deeply troubled by Diana's decision and the potential negative impact it may have on communities in the region. It is unfortunate that elected members of the Legislature and local municipal offices had no significant input into his final decision.

If it were not for a local newspaper reporter's diligent research, when would we, as county residents, have known about the county executive's actions? There has been a voluminous number of press releases emanating from his office for many reasons, so why not a press release on this extremely important decision?

The basis for which the Legislature voted 13-8 (mostly along party lines, with the notable exception of Republicans Al Buckbee and Kevin Hines) to endorse the findings was that sewer capacity would be sufficient for years to come and the county would again expand when reaching 85 percent capacity. This is questionable at best.

It did not receive the thorough legislative scrutiny it fully deserved. However, this legislative decision provided the county executive with the rationale he wanted in order to discontinue legal proceedings against the Kiryas Joel pipeline project. Diana was able to "convince" a sufficient number of legislators after only one meeting and a series of personal contacts that expansion of the sewer district was possible without any guarantees about its feasibility, costs or compliance with state environmental regulations.

The county is embarking on amending its Comprehensive Plan, which it is required to do, and it was intended for completion last year. It is imperative that the proposed amendments to this plan receive the intense and objective scrutiny they deserve and that all municipalities receive fair and equal opportunity to participate in this process.

Throughout the years, the county executive has not demonstrated a ready willingness to treat all communities on an equal basis in enforcement of local regulations. I believe the current legislative chairman will allow for more active participation in the comprehensive plan review process, and residents should avail themselves of the opportunity to do so by attending a meeting and/or contacting their county legislator.

Any legislative action will have a long-lasting impact on the future of this great county and cannot be left in the hands of just a few decision-makers. The time for active and informed citizen participation in our county is now greater than ever.

Frank Fornario Blooming Grove Town Supervisor.