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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 15, 2009
For 3 days
By Zach Simeone
BERNE After three days without water, the town’s highway department has a new water supply.
The town’s highway garage, built almost 50 years ago, is next to a property that was then owned by Maver Becker. The highway department dug into the property, and these wetlands were used as its water supply until late last month.
Matthew Landauer purchased the property in February, and, after conducting a survey of the land, discovered the well, along with several pieces of town-owned equipment.
“The town was negotiating with the owner,” Supervisor Kevin Crosier said this week. “Basically, there was land that was sold, and, when it was sold, they did a survey and found it. It’s not really a well; it’s nothing more than a cistern a couple of concrete culverts stacked on top of each other. The well was actually about 10 feet on the guy’s property, so, the town and the property owner tried to negotiate to buy an acre.”
After learning of the well’s use, Landauer approached the town in March and offered to sell the encompassing acre for $5,000, he told The Enterprise this week.
“They were going to buy property across the street from me for the sewer district; they offered my neighbor $8,000 for an acre with nothing on it,” Landauer said. “I approached Crosier, and he said the highway department didn’t use that well, and I asked them to remove all the equipment and materials on the property for liability I didn’t want a town employee getting hurt on my property…So, I offered to sell it to them, and they jerked me around for six months.”
The town finally offered him $3,000, he said.
“That’s not even close to market value,” Landauer said. He wanted $5,000. So, at the end of September, Landauer cut off the department’s access to the well.
Members of the highway department arrived at work Monday morning, Sept. 28, and discovered there was no water, they said this week.
“I came in one morning and happened to notice there was no water,” said highway worker Joseph Welsh, “because I wash out the coffee pots and everything. I notified the deputy, and went down towards the well, and noticed the wires were cut.”
John Bushnell, another highway worker, recounted the days without water.
“We couldn’t wash our hands,” said Bushnell. “They were talking about renting a portable john, but we never did. More or less, if we had to use the bathroom, we had to use one at a house near where we were, or at the local Mobil station; that’s about it. Only thing we could do was carry water in a bucket to flush the toilet. We have a cooler for drinking water.”
Over the next few days, the department dug another well about 40 feet away from the old well, just over the property line, Welsh said. By Thursday, they had water.
“We took a backhoe, dug a hole, and put some casing in, and we’ve got what we had before: a concrete-style dug well,” Welsh said. “I think it all could have been alleviated if the town board agreed to pay the man what he was asking.”