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Fayad prepares cheaper Highland Road water plan

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MASSENA - In the ongoing process to find a solution to poor water quality near Highland Road, the village’a Board of Trustees will consider a plan that will address the water issues at approximately 50 percent of the original proposed cost for the project.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad has prepared a plan that will replace the existing water pipe along Old Orchard and Leslie roads but not re-loop it. The estimated cost for that proposal is $245,000, down from the previously proposed $475,000 project.

Mr. Fayad noted that while replacing the pipe is more cost-effective relooping the pipe is the preferred solution by the New York state Department of Health.

“(The DOH) would like to see the system relooped, but at this time they’re willing to see what will happen if we replace the pipe,” Mr. Fayad said. “(The DOH does) frown upon dead-end lines; however, they are not illegal.”

Although dead-end systems already exist in both the town and village, Mr. Fayad said they are not ideal because “you have water that’s just sitting there” in the pipes.

Mr. Fayad will present this latest plan to the village board at its Tuesday meeting and if the board votes to move ahead on the proposal, it would likely establish a public hearing for its Feb. 19 meeting. Only after the public hearing would the board be able to make the official decision to move forward with the plan.

“We going to hear what people have to say, and we’ll take everything into account,” Mayor James F. Hidy said. “We’ve lessened the payment plan, and we feel the payments on village residents are minimal at best.”

At its last meeting, the board passed an unofficial straw vote to show its support for a pay-scale drawn up by Mr. Fayad and trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld. The motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with trustees Francis J. Carvel and Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies voting against it.

Under that plan, village homeowners would be billed $8.05 per year for a five-year period, while the homeowners who utilize that system will be billed $56.69 for the replacement of pipes in that area. In addition, there will be a permanent maintenance fee which will cost village residents $3.76 per year and residents in the Highland Road $26.49 per year.

Mr. Ahlfeld and Mr. Fayad prepared a zero to 100 percent chart for the village’s contribution to the repairs. At 100 percent village cost, the homeowners near Highland Road would be charged the same amount as homeowners within the village limits. At zero percent, the costs fell entirely on those homeowners near Highland Road. At zero percent, the costs fell entirely on those homeowners near Highland Road.

In December, the village board considered this latter option, though over a 10-year period, which would have totaled more than $5,000 per household.

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.

“It is infrastructure outside the village. We do have a responsibility to the people inside the village,” Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said. “I think this is an equitable way to (fund the maintenance costs).”

Mr. Carvel and Mr. Deshaies both expressed a dissatisfaction with the amount the plan charged the homeowners near Highland Road, in arguing their case against the plan.

“The village took over ownership of those lines. The village has responsibility (to fund maintenance),” Mr. Carvel said.

He stressed he felt the new maintenance fee was unnecessary. “Why are we adding another maintenance fee?” he asked, suggesting the new revenue would simply be dumped into the water fund. “It’s for forever. Everybody already pays a maintenance fee.”

Residents near the pipe’s 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 DPW 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.

“There’s the loss of revenue, the risk of (the pipes) icing up, and we’ve had complaints from (one property owner) that there’s water ponding up in his property,” Mr. Fayad said.

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, village officials had estimated. That proposal was panned by town officials and ratepayers in that area who attended the village board meeting last month when the proposal was discussed and later tabled. Many feel that because the village has sold water to those ratepayers for more than 50 years, it is obligated to foot the bill.

The latest proposal had been suggested by Mr. Carvel, the village trustee who previously was a foreman for the village’s Department of Public Works. He has suggested for some time there were far less costly solutions than the re-looping plan being advocated by Mr. Fayad.

Mr. Fayad said the DPW plans to do all the work in-house and is currently looking at the possibility of utilizing the town Highway Department wherever possible, an option that had been offered by Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray.

“We would absolutely welcome the Highway Department. We will be reaching out to them (to determine how they may be able to assist the project),” he said.

He also noted any possible savings from utilizing the Highway Department were not included in the proposed project’s estimated cost of $245,000.

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