By TIM FENSTER MASSENA - Supervisor Joseph D. Gray would like the villages Board of Trustees to work with the town in an effort to reduce costs associated with the $475,000 water improvement project in the Highland Road area.
The village board, in a straw vote Tuesday night, voted 3-2 on a resolution that would split the costs of that project between village ratepayers and the ratepayers near Highland Road. Under the plan, village homeowners will be billed $15.50 per year for a five-year period, while the homeowners who utilize that system will be billed $109.13 for the replacement of pipes in that area. In addition, there will be a permanent maintenance fee. Village officials are expected to schedule a public hearing on the plan at their next meeting.
Mr. Gray noted village and town officials have long been in discussions on how to fund the project, and he said he was surprised at how quickly village officials proposed and acted on a resolution.
Id hoped that after our meeting (with village officials and ratepayers) that we could sit down and look at some of our options, but the village took a different route, Mr. Gray said.
He would like village officials to consider utilizing the towns Highway Department to help with the relooping of pipes in that area. Although the village has to prepare a plan for the project - and to decide whether to utilize its Department of Public Works or hire a contractor - Mr. Gray believes its possible the village could save money for the ratepayers who are funding the project.
I plan to send an email this week saying if we can take this thing and bring it down from $500,000 to $250,000 usng the (towns Highway Department), why not do that? Mr. Gray said. (And) if we cant do that we cant do that.
Councilman John Macauley pointed out the towns Highway Department is funded through town taxes. However, Mr. Gray believes any additional costs from this work would be incremental, as the town already pays highway crews to do similar work on a day-to-day basis. Were paying our own highway crew anyway. We have our crew on the road anyway, Mr. Gray said. We wouldnt be incurring overtime, We wouldnt be hiring any more people.
Highway Department Superintendent Frank Diagostino expects his crews could help haul in sand for fill and haul away dug-up dirt, but said he would need more information to determine how his crews could help in the project. Until all the facts are discussed I dont really know what we could do at this point, he said.
Councilman Albert Nicola raised concerns about the town being liable for any potential errors or injuries in the project. We help them with their line - its their line - (and) something goes wrong with that, now whos responsibility is that? Mr. Nicola asked.
Councilman Charles Chuck Raiti replied that liability would have to be a part of the discussion.
Ratepayers along that pipe on Old Orchard and Leslie roads are billed a monthly village water bill, but their homes lie nearly a mile outside the village limits. A half-century old agreement brought village water to that section of the town.
Residents near the pipes dead-end began experiencing rusty water a couple of years ago. The water was still drinkable but looked bad and was problematic for laundry. In the meantime, the Department of Public Works has allowed the end of the pipe to leak to prevent the homeowners from receiving rusty water. Mr. Fayad has estimated the pipe could be losing over 200,000 gallons a month.
Theres the loss of revenue, the risk of (the pipes) icing up, and weve had complaints from (one property owner) that theres water ponding up in his property, Mr. Fayad said.
At the village board meeting Tuesday, Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld read a letter from the New York State Department of Health, stating that if the pipes are not fixed in the near-future, the DOH would begin testing for contaminants in the pipes. If contaminants were found in the pipes, the DOH would have to take enforcement action to ensure the water issues were addressed.
Mr. Fayad had set aside $100,000 in his 2012-13 budget to repair the line, a cost which would have fallen to all village ratepayers. But village board members told him after budget workshops earlier this year to come up with other options to pay for it.
Replacing that line and looping it another 2,300 feet to eliminate the dead-end would cost $475,000, or $350 per year per household. The previously proposed resolution would have put both these costs and a $155 maintenance fee on those ratepayers, totalling $505 per year per household for a 10-year period.
One previously proposed alternative to that plan was for the town to annex the area into its water district. However, Mr. Gray was against adopting a 50-year-old system and letting the costs of its repairs fall on town ratepayers.
I think we need to start at square one and get the pipes fixed and not let the burden fall on town residents. I dont think (that would be) fair, Mr. Gray said previously.
Town Bookkeeper Nancy Fregoe suggested the town consider hiring an inspector for the project to ensure the pipes are installed properly, because the town may annex it into its water district in the future. Her suggestion was met favorably by Mr. Diagostino and town board members.