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Tue., Oct. 6
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Massena village may bill town ratepayers for pipe repairs


MASSENA - Homeowners near Highland Road may be saddled with a 10-year bill to replace an aging water pipe even though they pay monthly village user fees.

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.

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 Department of Public Works has allowed the end of the pipe to leak to prevent the homeowners from receiving rusty water. DPW Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad estimated the pipe could be losing over 200,000 gallons a month.

Mr. Fayad had set aside $100,000 in his 2012-2013 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.

Last week, Mr. Fayad presented a series of alternative methods to the village Board of Trustees. Replacing the dead-end pipe could cost $245,000, or $180 per year for each household on the line for 10 years. Replacing that line and looping it another 2,300 feet to eliminate the dead end would cost $475,000, or $350 per year per household.

Village board members plan on meeting with town officials before they proceed with any of the options.

“The status quo is just not cutting it,” Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said.

“At the end of the day, if we can’t come to an agreement, the village will choose one that works best for us,” Mayor James F. Hidy later added.

That doesn’t seem particularly fair to Joseph G. Buffham, who wondered why he had been paying a village water bill for his Old Orchard Road house for the last 30 years if he’d end up with an additional bill in the end.

“They have no problem taking our money every month,” Mr. Buffham said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“Where has that money gone to?” he asked. “I don’t think he can legally do that.”

But Mr. Fayad said it wasn’t right for the village to be subsidizing repairs in the town. Most other town residents are in a district and pay for their own repairs; the Highland Road area should too, he said.

“Is that fair to the people of the village of Massena?” he asked. “I think not.”

“There’s probably going to be some discomfort and objection from the property owners,” he said.

The town is currently consolidating its districts but has no plans to fold that pipe into one. Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the town should have been more involved in pipe installation decades ago, but has no role in the repairs at this point. He questioned why the village was attempting to saddle town residents with those costs.

“Shouldn’t a certain percentage of the big operations and maintenance fund be earmarked for that portion of their system?” he asked. “The village failed to make an accounting for that.”

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, now the Highland Nursing Home, and the surrounding area. Mr. Kaneb agreed to finance the materials and the village provided labor.

At some point, someone else hooked onto that 10-inch pipe with a 6-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.

Mr. Fayad also proposed billing $550 per year per household for everyone served by the 10-inch water line, which is also aging and would cost $750,000 to replace. The nursing home would be exempt from that cost because of the agreement, Mr. Fayad said. Another option involves charging the entire area $155 per year per household for pipe maintenance in that area.

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