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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 6, 2005
Proposal to purchase water from Albany
By Holly Grosch
NEW SCOTLAND The town has sent an official proposal to Albany to purchase water from the city.
New Scotland has requested a maximum of 4.5 million gallons per month at $2.42 per 1,000 gallons, Supervisor Ed Clark said.
The proposed agreement is for the next 20 years, Clark said, with percentage increase built into the contract.
This is the first step in the negotiation process, town attorney Michael Mackey said.
After years of informal discussions with the Albany Water Board, and the town of Bethlehem to transmit the water, Clark said he thinks New Scotland may be able to secure this new water source by early next year.
While the first offer that New Scotland has thrown out to Albany is $2.42 per thousand gallons, water will still cost individual New Scotland residents a good bit more, because additional costs include paying Bethlehem for the transmission, and then New Scotlands own operating expenses, Clark said.
However, the overall cost of water from Albany, which has a huge water supply, will be cheaper than purchasing the water from Bethlehem. New Scotland currently buys water from Bethlehem for four of the towns water districts: Feura Bush, Swift Road, Heldervale, and Font Grove.
Bethlehem charges an out-of-town rate to New Scotland residents, which is twice what Bethlehem residents pay.
Councilman Scott Houghtaling said at a meeting on Thursday that some people who get water from Bethlehem in a New Scotland water district are paying $9 per thousand gallons.
Font Grove is the most expensive water district in town because there are only 17 people who belong to the district so the cost of that district is not split across the bank accounts of very many people, Clark said.
Currently each user in the Font Grove Water District has to pay for a minimum of 5,000 gallons, which costs $125; then, for every 1,000 gallons used beyond that, residents are charged $11.
"The cost factor is what is really driving us to Albany," Dempf said. Additionally, Bethlehem really does not have any additional water to sell to New Scotland, Dempf said.
If New Scotland does acquire water from Albany and a transmission agreement is formed, one of the first things the town will do is provide water to residents at the cheaper rate, Clark said.
The second objective is to provide public water to new users in areas of town with well-water problems, Clark said. But extending New Scotlands public water system is contingent upon being able to afford to put the pipes in the ground, Clark said.
Excluding the village of Voorheesville about half of the households in New Scotland have public water.
A third objective of purchasing water from Albany and subsequently having a larger water source at an affordable rate, is to make public water available to businesses and commercial development, Clark said.
What has made things move forward now, after a standstill, is that Bethlehem, which has its own water problems, is now working on its water upgrades.
Bethlehem plans to replace old water lines and put in a new 24 inch water main along Route 85 through the town of New Scotland to connect Bethlehem to its reservoir, which is located within the town lines of New Scotland, Clark said.
"Bethlehem has been very cooperative," as it moves forward with its own improvements, Clark said. "We’ve been talking to them about the pipe lines," he said, and over the course of the discussion, Bethlehem officials have said that it would be "reasonable" for them to carry the water that New Scotland purchases from Albany through Bethlehem pipes to the New Scotland town line.
"They said they will agree to work out an agreement," Clark said.
"Bethlehem continues to be more than happy to come to the table to discuss this," Bethlehem Supervisor Theresa Egan has said in public session and to The Enterprise.
Clark said that now that an agreement to make an agreement for transmission is more solid, the town was confident to go forward and request a purchase contract with Albany.
The town board approved the action on Sept. 14, and the proposal was finalized and sent out on Monday, Sept. 26. He has not heard back from the water board yet, Clark said this Tuesday.
Some of the sticking points of the contract, Clark predicts, will be the price, how the metering system will work, and also Albany may want to impose a minimum gallon purchase requirement.
Councilman Houghtaling said that he would like to have a cushion on both ends so that the town wont be purchasing more water than it can use and also not cut itself short.
Work with the DEC
Currently, the town of Bethlehem is attempting to acquire land assessments from private residents in New Scotland who own property along Route 85, in order to put its 24-inch water main in the ground.
Mike Kolceski, a consulting engineer for Bethlehem, has said that construction is planned for next spring, starting in April.
This Bethlehem main water line will simply bring water from the Vly Creek Reservoir, owned by Bethlehem, but located in New Scotland into Bethlehem, and will result in no direct benefit to New Scotland residents.
Bethlehem has, and continues to only be obligated by the States Department of Environmental Conservation to supply water to New Scotlanders whose property abuts the public highway, and is within 150 feet of the transmission line. These users are not a part of a New Scotland water district but instead pay user fees directly to the town of Bethlehem.
Houghtaling said that, with Bethlehems water main crossing through New Scotland, Bethlehem is well aware of New Scotlands desires for a transmission agreement and water for its commercial area.
"My opinion, based on what we have out there today, they [Bethlehem] will need a new water contract," Dempf told the town board last month.
Councilmen Richard Reilly said New Scotland should be in contact with both Bethlehem and the States Department of Environmental Conservation now.
Dempf said that Bethlehems water project has more to it than just the one line and Bethlehem is applying to the DEC, which will look at Bethlehems entire water situation and capability.
Water committee member Robert Cook asked, what Bethlehems permit status was, because if Bethlehem plans to take more yield out of the reservoir it will have to apply to the DEC for the additional water supply.
Bethlehem will be taking more water out of the reservoir, but not increasing the impoundment, Dempf said.
As New Scotland negotiates with Albany for water, the town still wants to keep its supply options open.
While Bethlehem is in discussions with the DEC, New Scotland plans to actively inform the DEC of its interest so that they are considered.
Town mulls expanding, consolidating water districts
Plan creates mixed reaction from residents
By Holly Grosch
NEW SCOTLAND The town has to make improvements to the infrastructure of the Clarksville and North Road water districts, and wants to extend the public water service to new users at the same time.
The town board held a public information meeting on Thursday, Sept. 29, to explain the options to the residents living in the areas affected by the proposed project. Letters of invitation where sent out to 200 households, but only about 50 people attended.
"I’m thrilled to have this meeting for the people that don’t have water," Patricia Weller of Upper Flat Rock Road told The Enterprise before the meeting started. She does have public water and is part of the North Road Water District.
"I would like to see them extend it," said Jerry Schaddy of the original Clarksville District. "I think it will help extend the base...get more people paying in."
Ralph Collen lives on Lower Flat Rock Road and currently uses well water on his property, which he said he has had no problem with, and has not needed to purify or treat. As people filed into the meeting room, Collen said that he was up for joining a public water system, because he understands that it will increase the value of his home. However, he said, he hasnt thought yet, about how much hes willing to pay for it.
All three individuals were of retirement age and said that they didnt know anything about the proposed project; the letter they received in the mail, was what brought them out that night.
The original Clarksville Water District was formed in the late 1980s and hasnt really had any improvements since, Councilman Scott Houghtaling said; he is the town boards liaison to the water committee.
In 1995, construction started on the North Road District, made possible by a grant and an interest-free loan, because of the contaminants that were found in the ground water, Houghtaling reminded everyone.
The water source for both districts is wells that are located on Winnie Lane. Town engineer and water committee Chairman R. Mark Dempf said water from those wells is plentiful, and has the capacity to serve many more people.
Expansion of the public water system in this section of town is being held up by the expense of laying underground water pipelines.
Water is pumped out of the wells on Winnie Lane and then runs along Route 32 up Flat Rock Road and along the Delaware Turnpike. A booster pump on Route 443 then pushes the water up the hill to the residents in the hamlet.
Current residents along Flat Rock Road and Route 32, who have a water transmission line running in front of their houses, are not able to tap into the public system.
The town wants to make needed improvements to the water tank on Stove Pipe Road, the booster pumps, and the filtration equipment at the well house, and at the same time allow the residents along the transmission line to join the district. New lines would serve as many new residents as economically feasible, including the front end of Morning Star Lane.
The extension will offer water to 43 new users, Dempf said.
The largest single expense of the improvements to the existing district is a new water tank. The current one is rusting and, in order to make the needed repairs to the tank, the town has to put another tank at the same location on Stove Pipe Road; otherwise people would be without water for at least six months as repairs are completed, Dempf said.
The plan is to put in a 280,000-gallon tank next to the existing 200,000-gallon tank.
On the district owned small parcel of land on Stove Pipe Road, Dempf said, "It’s going be a tight fit for the two tanks"; the new one will be wider, but not taller, he said.
The old tank needs to be sandblasted and recoated, Dempf said. Under-water divers inspected the tank six years ago, and, at that time, the inspectors said repairs were needed, Dempf said.
"Is it leaking"" came a call came from the audience.
"Not yet," Dempf said with all seriousness.
Clarksville resident Tony Silvano asked about using a different material for the new tank to make it last longer or cost less.
Dempf said that the plan is to glass line the tank.
Delaware Avenue resident Arthur VanPraag asked what was the difference between Clarksvilles water tank and Feura Bushs tank that it needs to be replaced sooner.
Houghtaling responded that the Feura Bush tank is not that far behind in needing to be replaced.
"In order to keep the system up and running, we need to do these upgrades," Houghtaling said.
Houghtaling said that the estimated cost for the improvements is $446,000, which would mean a water tax rate of $5.42 per $1,000 of assessed value. This would mean an average parcel would pay $661 per year, which is above the state comptrollers current limitation of $575. That limit, of how much a municipality can charge each resident for water is set by the state and changes every year. A year ago, it was $621, Dempf said.
"If we add more users, we can drive the cost-per-homeowner down," Houghtaling said. But, at the same time, the town can’t add too many new users, because of the cost of extending new pipelines.
The water tax that residents pay in this water district is based on the assessed value of their property, Houghtaling said.
The current assessed value of the Clarksville Water District is $13 million. North Roads assessed value is $3.9 million, and the area of the extension has an assessed value of $5.7 million, Houghtaling said.
One man in the audience stated that considerable development will follow the public water extension.
A lot of the parcels in the area of the extension are currently vacant lots.
Houghtaling nodded in agreement about the potential for development.
Residents expressed concerns about the yield of the well repeatedly throughout the meeting and questioned if the Nitrate problem would come back again, with pulling more water out of the wells. Dempf assured everyone that the water districts wells have both quality and quantity.
Dempf added that his firms engineering principals have to be approved by the countys Health Department and the states Environmental Conservation Department. A State of New York water supply permit gives New Scotland permission to take water from underground, Dempf said; there is plenty of water in this area.
Something else besides maintenance thats been put off and needs to be done, Dempf and Houghtaling said, is consolidating the North Road Water District with the Clarksville Water District to make it into one district.
This was one of the stipulations of receiving the state funding for North Road to begin with, Dempf said.
The consolidation is "for equalization" so that everyone who benefits from the infrastructure pays for its upkeep, Houghtaling said. Currently, the North Road Water District users have a lower water rate than Clarksville users, and the North Road people are not paying their fair share to contribute to the expense of the infrastructure, that brings water from the wells through Clarksville into North Road, Houghtaling said.
Joe Weller and his wife were the only North Road Water District residents who attended the meeting. When the audience was asked to raise their hands, about 40 percent were from the original Clarksville Water District and about 58 percent were from the area of the proposed extension.
"I guess we really want it," said one woman with her hand raised as she looked around the room noticing that the individuals without public water were the ones that showed up at the meeting in the most magnitude.
Weller told The Enterprise after the meeting that he was fine with the consolidation, and that he understands that he should be paying for the pipes that are coming up to his street. "Theoretically we were getting a free ride," he said.
"We wouldn’t have a district without Clarksville Water District being there first," Weller said. "My house was affected by the pollution...We had bad water for five years," he said.
The total cost of the needed improvements plus the extension is estimated to be $888,000, Houghtaling said.
The new tax rate per 1,000 of assessed value would be $5.52. This tax rate is 10 cents higher than the rate just for the improvements, Houghtaling said. However, the cost can be reduced by refinancing the existing debt, he added.
North Road debt is on an interest-free loan and is now at $72,000; in five years, the loan decreased by $18,000, Houghtaling said.
Clarksvilles remaining debt is $583,000, to be paid off over 20 more years, at an interest rate of 5.17 percent. But, a 4.75-percent rate is available, Houghtaling said. The town can pay this new rate over 25 or 30 years, he said.
The current water tank didnt last 30 years, one audience member pointed out.
Houghtaling said that, in retrospect, maybe the town boards over the years should have been charging more for water, to set aside a reserve fund to pay for maintenance.
"These districts just break even there’s no surplus fund," Houghtaling said.
Resident Joe Hogan, asked, with extending the length of the debt to 30 more years, won’t paying over a longer period of time end up costing homeowners more in the long run"
Financing a water district is not like financing a car, Dempf replied. Even after the current debt is up in 20 years, there will be continued need to update, Dempf said. Residents will also have a need for water and, everything has a life expectancy, he said.
Clarksville resident Sherry Fink said she heard 15 years ago from town officials, that after residents paid for the establishment of the district, the cost of water would go down, because the initial expense of establishing the district and putting in the pipes would be completed.
Houghtaling responded that town taxes, county taxes, school taxes, water taxes and electricity bills have all gone up.
Will this happen"
Consolidation is a board action, Houghtaling said, which will have at least his vote.
Town attorney Michael Mackey said that, after the board votes to consolidate, that vote will be subject to a permissive referendum, which means there will be a 30-day period in which residents can petition for a referendum, if they dont like the boards decision.
An extension, on the other hand, is formed through an official petitioning process, Houghtaling said, adding that the town board will require at least 50 percent of the property owners in the extension area to agree to the project.
"We want to see 80 percent," Houghtaling said. The petitioning process will make sure that residents know what they are getting and how much they will have to pay for it.
Houghtaling clarified that the town would bring the water lines up to the landowner’s property lines but then, "It’s the homeowners’ responsibility to hook it up from the property line to your house."
Houghtaling laid out what he thought was a reasonable timeline, if everything goes well: Petitioning will begin in March and construction in 2007.
Dempf said that, by 2007, he would be "very concerned about the improvements."
Some residents uneasy
"They are going to do whatever they want," is the conclusion that Arthur VanPraag came to at the end of the meeting. He said he wants to have the residents vote on the project rather than leaving it in the control of elected representatives.
When asked what he would like the town to do, he said, "They should have done it right the first time."
Maybe if the town had better engineers and better planners when the district was initially proposed, it could have been done better, and there wouldnt be as many problems now, VanPraag said.
Everything needs maintenance, but the town shouldnt have waited until the tank was rusting out before coming to the residents, asking for money to fix it.
"Don’t wait for there to be an emergency," VanPraag said. Maybe the town should have charged a little more for water all along to have a reserve fund to repair things along the way, he said.
VanPraag mistrusts the town government when it comes to the water district, because, even from the beginning, he said, when the Clarksville Water District was formed, the town representatives "did not do what they said they would do." He was told 16 years ago that there would be two houses per hook-up and now there are six houses per hook up, he said.
Mike Cootware of Delaware Avenue joined the conversation and said that residents are content with using well water until they want to sell their house; then, he said, "I’ve seen people in their backyard with a backhoe," tapping into the water line illegally.
Washburn resigns after states audit
By Bill Sherman
VOORHEESVILLE In a report released this week, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi was highly critical of Voorheesville bookkeeping procedures, stating the village had "significant weaknesses in payroll-related internal controls that caused errors to occur and remain undetected."
Mayor Jack Stevens, who requested the audit by the comptrollers office, said village staff and elected officials have worked with Hevesis office throughout the summer and have implemented all of the recommendations listed in the audit report.
Stevens said of the audit, "I requested the comptroller’s office to come in because I wanted to make sure everything was right." The audit identified three significant problems with employee deductions, with the village’s payroll checking account, and with hiring of seasonal employees.
Stevens also described a change in a key village staff position has taken place that would help move the village forward with the bookkeeping. Gary Washburn, village clerk/treasurer since July of 2004, resigned effective Sept. 23. The former deputy clerk/ treasurer, Linda Pasquali, has assumed Washburns position.
Stevens would not elaborate on the specifics of Washburns departure, only to say it was a mutual decision.
The comptrollers audit found that the clerk/treasurer had provided incorrect health and dental deduction amounts to the private company that administered the villages payroll. This error resulted in the village paying about $950 more for employee health coverage than it should have.
Stevens said the village trustees approved $50,000 for a new computer system that was installed this summer. The system provides the necessary checks and balances to ensure accurate records are kept, Stevens added. The village now performs its own payroll services, a process the village paid for in the past.
"The new computer system will save taxpayers money in the long run because we can do the [payroll] work in-house," Stevens said.
While many people balance their checking accounts monthly, the clerk/treasurer apparently had not balanced the village’s payroll checking account since February of 2004. "As a result, the Clerk-Treasurer did not know the true balance in the account," the audit concluded. In addition, there were nine outstanding checks and an "unexplained difference of $732.82" in the account.
The comptroller’s audit stated, "Because record-keeping was so poor, it was impossible to determine the nature of this discrepancy."
Stevens said the village has also received help from village resident George Person, a former State Comptroller’s employee. Stevens said Person’s expertise in municipal finances coupled with Pasquali’s "intelligence and willingness to learn will make sure everything is right and correct."
Steven’s continued, "George is very generous with his time. He is very excited about Linda." Lately, Pasquali has been busy attending education sessions on municipal finances sponsored by the New York Conference of Mayors. Stevens said the new clerk/treasurer will be attending future classes sponsored by NYCOM and by the State Comptroller’s Office.
The comptrollers audit also faulted the village for not having a formal, written policy for hiring seasonal employees. According to Stevens, the village typically hires between 40 and 50 employees to staff the summer youth program.
Deputy Mayor Bill Hotaling was charged with establishing the formal policy. Hotalings policy was completed this summer after two months of dedicated work, Stevens said.
Overall Stevens said he is pleased with the changes the village has made. Stevens said most of the recommended changes were incorporated months ago. Recently, the comptrollers office met with village officials. Stevens said the comptrollers staff was surprised to see the village implemented the changes so quickly.
"The comptroller’s office was fine with all the changes we made," Stevens added.
Stevens said he can now rest easier at night with Pasquali in the clerk/treasurer position. "I’m real confident now, especially with Linda at the helm. She is very intelligent and not afraid to dig into things," said Stevens.
Pasquali and Washburn had both been appointed to their newly-created positions in the summer of 2004. The senior post paid $38,000 annually and the deputy post paid $32,000.
The village used to have a clerk and a treasurer. The new posts were created, the mayor said at the time, so the pair could cross-train and serve both functions as clerk and as treasurer.
Pasquali, who has lived in Voorheesville since 1987, is a Le Moyne College graduate. The mother of two children, she has been heavily involved in community affairs, especially in the school.
Mayor Stevens concluded this week, "The board has breathed a sigh of relief" to have Linda Pasquali as clerk/treasurer.
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