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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Massena village board tables plan to fund Highland Road pipe repairs

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MASSENA - The village’s Board of Trustees decided to table - but only for a few weeks - a plan to pay for the replacement of aging water pipes near Highland Road after an at times contentious debate with residents that would be impacted by the move and town officials.

The board considered a resolution to have homeowners in that area fund the costs of the repairs over a 10-year period. Following an hour of heated discussion during a public hearing on the proposal, the board voted to table the resolution until its next meeting in January,

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.

“There’s the loss of revenue, the risk of (the pipes) icing up, and we’ve had complaints from (one property owner) that there’s water ponding up in his property,” Mr. Fayad said.

]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. 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. The resolution proposed to put both these costs and a $155 maintanence fee on those ratepayers, totalling $505 per year per household for a 10-year period.

That proposal was panned by town officials and ratepayers in that area who attended the meeting. Many feel that because the village has sold water to those ratepayers for more than 50 years, it is obligated to foot the bill.

“We have been paying for any (pipe maintanence) along any street in the village of Massena through our water rates,” said Elizabeth Kaneb, an administrator for the Highland Nursing Home. “If you want to form a water district you’re going to have to figure out how much we’ve paid, then allocate appropriately.”

Mr. Fayad noted homeowners near Highland Road have been paying roughly the same amount in water rates as residents within the village water district.

Mayor James F. 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.

A second option is for those ratepayers to petition to join the town’s water district. Village officials noted that joining the town’s water district may reduce costs on the individual because the total maintanence costs would be spread over more ratepayers.

However, town officials said it would be unlikely that the town would be interested in incurring the cost of repairing pipes it has not received water rate revenue from.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld noted town and village officials had met five times over the last two years, and still had not found a solution.

“At the last meeting the general consensus was the town has no dog in the hunt; they don’t own the lines,” Mr. Ahlfeld said. “We’ve got to do something to recoup our costs (of repair). We’ve got no other choice.”

Some village officials disagreed with the resolution, saying the village has a responsibility to bear those costs.

“I think we have to live with (the costs of maintenance),” Trustee Francis J. Carvel said. “The village owns the lines, the village should take care of them.”

One thing officials on both sides of the issue agreed on was that a solution needs to be reached soon.

“One way or another, this project is going to get done. It’s gone on too long,” Mr. Hidy said.

In proposing the board table the resolution, Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said an agreement must be reached during the next meeting between town and village officials.

“What’s the solution to this? Let’s get together and find it,” Ms. Wilson said.

Officials for both the town and village agreed that action must be taken at the next meeting.

“The pipes didn’t get old overnight. Mr. (Joseph G.) Buffham has had bad water for a long time,” Town Councilman Albert Nicola said.

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