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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Massena mayor, supervisor clash over proposed water rates

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MASSENA - A proposal to bill homeowners near Highland Road for the cost of water line replacement there led to heated exchanges between Mayor James F. Hidy and Supervisor Joseph D. Gray at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.

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.

The village has proposed ratepayers in that area cover the costs of maintenance. Mr. Hidy believes it is only fair for the ratepayers to foot the bill, because the area is not part of the village’s water district.

“(The cost) is on those ratepayers because it’s not in a water district. We can’t have other ratepayers paying for it,” Mr. Hidy said.

However, Mr. Gray believes the village is responsible for those costs.

“For the past 50 years the village has sold water (to those ratepayers), and the village has made a profit on it and if you haven’t shame on you,” Mr. Gray said. “That profit has been used to fund the account of the (village’s) water department. So it seems to me if you need to make repairs to one of your customer’s lines, it should have been included in what they paid for the past 50 years.”

At a public hearing on the issue, Mr. Gray was one of the most vocal critics of the proposal. Mr. Gray would like to incorporate the Highland Road area into the town’s water district, but only on the condition that the village cover the costs of the pipe replacement.

“You want (town ratepayers) to absorb the costs of this line, but you don’t want the village, which has been profiting from the customers out there for 50 years, to pay for it,” Mr. Gray said, suggesting the town would be willing to take over the aging infrasdtructure if it also received a half million or million dollars from the village to fund the necessary repairs.

Mr. Hidy noted this maintanence work is long overdue, and that the village is wasting funds every day that treated water flows out one of those dead-end pipes.

“At the end of the day, if we can’t come to an agreement, the village will choose one that works best for us,” Mr. Hidy said previously.

Mr. Gray and Mr. Hidy’s divergent points of view led to several heated arguments during Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting. During one argument by Mr. Gray, Mr. Hidy began to strike his gavel and repeat “You’re out of order, Joe (Gray).”

Mr. Gray refused to stop making his point.

“Joe, I am going to ask you stop. I’m going to ask you to sit down please. I’ve got the floor, Joe. I wouldn’t do this at your meeting,” he said.

The town supervisor countered he wouldn’t attempt to stifle the discusssion. “Call the police and have me removed. Be mature, be professional. Your punishing these people,” Mr. Gray told the mayor.

After almost an hour of discussion, the village board agreed to table the measure to allow another opporunity for village and town officials to reach an agreement on who should foot the bill.

Shortly after, Mr. Hidy turned to Mr. Gray and said, “Joe (Gray), I’m going to leave this up to you. You get your group together, get a date and a time, and we’ll be there.”

Mr. Hidy added that they had to reach an agreement at the end of that meeting.

“Set all the arbitrary deadlines you want,” Mr. Gray responded. “The bottom line is if you want us to take this line over, put money on the table for the operation.”

Mr. Hidy told Mr. Gray the town would not “see a dime” from the village.

“If we’re not going to see a dime don’t waste anybody’s time then,” Mr. Gray shot back. “If you think we should take this line over at no cost (from the village), when you’ve been making money on this for 50 years, don’t go and waste our time on a meeting.

“There’s no way this town council will in good conscious take over a 50-year-old system and let (those costs) fall on our ratepayers,” he added.

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