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Massena town officials want village to reconsider Highland Road water plan

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MASSENA - Town officials hope the village’s Board of Trustees will go back to the drawing board with their plans to fund the replacement of aging water pipes along Highland Road.

The village board voted earlier this month to establish a public hearing at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the proposed $245,000 project, a cost that will be split between village ratepayers and ratepayers who utilize those pipes near Highland Road, outside the village. After the public hearing, the board may vote on the proposed project.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray is concerned the village is overcharging those residents because the village has not received an estimate for what the work would cost if it’s handled by the Department of Public Works.

“There continues to be overriding concerns for what that cost will cover. If the work is done in house, it’s hard to know until the cost comes in,” Mr. Gray said.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad has said $245,000 is the estimated cost if the village were to hire a contractor, and that the work would cost less if it were done in house.

“Why do they need to collect money if they’re using existing personnel and the only additional cost will be for materials and to rent equipment?” Mr. Gray asked.

Mr. Gray pointed out the village board hasn’t looked at any cost estimates for a project that would utilize the Department of Public Works for the pipe replacement.

“I would hope they would have (looked at those figures) before now. What is the exact cost on the village of Massena to replace this pipe?” Mr. Gray said. “They replace other pipes in their water system without raising the rates.”

Mr. Gray suggested village officials look at the cost of replacing other pipes in the village and base the project cost on those figures.

Councilmen Charles A. “Chuck” Raiti and Albert N. Nicola agreed with Mr. Gray’s position, saying if the project were up for a vote by the town board they would have to see estimates for in-house work before they could make a vote on it.

“I would hope their decision would factor in what’s best for the people of Highland Road and (how to do) it at the best cost,” Mr. Nicola said.

Mayor James F. Hidy wants to move ahead on the proposal, noting that action on the pipes has been delayed repeatedly because of deliberations on whose responsibility it is to pay for the work.

“How many times do you go back to the drawing board? We feel we have a really palatable solution to what’s going on out there,” Mr. Hidy said Friday.

Mr. Hidy also said that any savings from the project would go back into the village’s water maintenance fund. “Extra monies will be going toward other water projects, as our infrastructure is aging every day. It’s money in the bank,” he said.

Under the proposed plan, all village homeowners would be billed $8.05 per year for five years, while the homeowners who use that system will be billed $56.69 per year for five years for the replacement of the pipes. There also will be a permanent maintenance fee, which will cost village residents $3.76 per year and residents in the Highland Road area $26.49 per year.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld and Mr. Fayad had 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 in the village. At zero percent, the costs fell entirely on those homeowners near Highland Road.

The new motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with Trustees Albert C. Deshaies and Francis J. Carvel voting against it.

Mr. Carvel, who was previously the foreman for the village’s DPW, said he is against the plan because he also believes the project could be done for much less than $245,000 if DPW did all the work in-house rather than hiring a contractor.

The DPW could handle the project, Mr. Fayad said, but that would delay the department’s work on other projects. He estimated the project would take about a month to complete.

In December, trustees considered a plan that would have put the full costs of replacing and relooping the system, $475,000, on the ratepayers near Highland, totaling $5,000 over 10 years.

Ratepayers along that pipe on Old Orchard and Leslie roads are charged a monthly village water bill, but their homes lie nearly a mile outside the village limits. A half-century-old agreement extended the village water system to that section of the town.

Mr. Carvel and Mr. Deshaies both expressed dissatisfaction with the amount the plan charged the homeowners near Highland Road.

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

Town officials agree the village has a responsibility to those lines. Mr. Raiti said that as a ratepayer he’s concerned the project will set a precedent for future projects, causing ratepayers along a problematic line to pay more for its maintenance than other village residents.

“Is that what they’re going to do (to replace a water pipe near) my home in the village? Precedent means a lot,” Mr. Raiti said.

Residents near the pipe’s dead end began experiencing rusty water a couple of years ago. The water still was drinkable but looked bad and was problematic for laundry. In the meantime, 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 more than 200,000 gallons of water a month.

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