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Fri., Oct. 9
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Massena town, village disagree over repairing aging pipe


MASSENA - The repair of an aging water pipe on Leslie and Old Orchard roads has village and town officials at odds with each other.

Homeowners along that pipe have paid village water fees for years even though their homes lie nearly a mile outside the village limits. The pipe is aging and needs to be replaced, Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said.

Over the last couple years, residents near the end of the pipe began experiencing rusty water. The water was still drinkable but looked bad and was problematic for laundry, Mr. Fayad said.

“It was a perception thing,” he said.

Joseph G. Buffham, who lives on Old Orchard Road, said his water and his neighbor’s often came out discolored.

“It was completely brown at times,” Mr. Buffham said. “It would just clog the filters of the refrigerator.”

The village and town can’t agree on who is responsible for the pipe’s replacement. The pipe is not in a town water district, Councilman Charles A. Raiti said. The town is currently consolidating its districts, but has no plans to fold that pipe into one, he said.

“How can we fold something into our water consolidation when we don’t own it?” he asked. “The town of Massena has no dog in that fight... It’s up to the village what they want to do.”

But village officials don’t want to pay for a water pipe in the town.

“The people in the village of Massena are subsidizing the town, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Mr. Fayad said.“They should be in a district where the district is self supporting.”

Mr. Fayad had originally set aside $100,000 in his upcoming budget to repair the line, a cost which would have fallen to all village ratepayers. But board members told him to take that project money out.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said the village board wants to do the right thing for all of its residents. Financing a new pipe has still not been resolved.

“The village is not in favor of doing that,” he said. “It’s not something the village is interested in paying for.”

The village can’t find paperwork on the six-inch pipe’s history or its owner, Mr. Fayad said. The village inked an agreement with businessman Edward Kaneb Sr. and several others in the late 1950s to install a 10-inch water pipe from the village limits out to the nearby Highland Hotel and the surrounding area. Mr. Kaneb agreed to finance the materials and the village provided labor for the pipe.

At some point, someone else hooked onto that 10-inch pipe with a six-inch extension that now needs to be repaired, Mr. Fayad said. As homes sprouted up along the line over the years, they began paying the village water fees. The village and town have met several times to determine who owns the pipe.

Timothy Burley, a town-retained engineer, said the lack of paperwork on the troublesome waterline has been problematic.

“It kind of makes it cloudy,” he said. “It leaves it in many cases ... open to a liberal interpretation.”

Mr. Kaneb said the village should take care of the line. He remembered a man by the name of William Oman striking a deal to build the extension at no cost to the village.

The village ended up with a lot of customers without paying for anything,” he said. “They had an implied agreement, or they would not have supplied him with water.”

Mr. Fayad disputed the idea that the village owned the pipe.

“It’s located in the township. Is it a village line? I don’t know,” he said.

In the meantime, the DPW has allowed water at the end of the pipe to leak out to prevent those homeowners from receiving rusty water. Mr. Fayad estimated the water seeping out at the end of the pipe could be leaking over 200,000 gallons a month. The village has metered the lost water.

“It doesn’t take much to add up,” Mr. Fayad said. “This is 24 hours a day.”

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