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Sat., Aug. 29
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Town “forbids” village from retroactively collecting water bills from town residents


MASSENA - Inside the town of Massena, village officials have discovered three homes that house multiple dwellings, but have only one water meter.

The mayor has since reached out to Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray asking him to authorize the collection of two capital recovery fees as well as two minimum water usage (or additional billing for how much water is used) charges. That money would go to the village. The village was also looking to the town to collect a second capital debt fee and maintenance fee. Both of those fees would go to the town.

“The village thinks we should be charging double,” Mr. Gray said, adding he disagrees with the village’s stance.

“They are paying for the water they use,” he said, acknowledging though that only one maintenance fee, capital debt fee and capital recovery fee are being collected.

And while the structure of the town code may allow the village to ultimately charge these residents additional usage and capital recovery fees, Mr. Gray said he doesn’t believe that is right.

“It is our water system. I don’t think is the village’s decision to make,” he said.

Councilman Thomas C. Miller noted that while these three homes may have been noticed, he would expect there are more than three multiple dwelling homes with only one water meter.

“This is just three of how many?” he asked, also wondering how the village became aware of these particular homes.

Town bookkeeper Nancy Fregoe, who is also Mr. Gray’s secretary, said it was her understanding they send firefighters to these rental properties to “inspect them,” at which point it was determined the homes had two kitchens and were multiple family dwellings.

Councilman John F. Macaulay said if that’s the way the issues were discovered he had a big problem with that.

“You can’t send them into people’s homes under the guise of being fire inspectors,” he said. “If I were them, I would get a lawyer. That’s an illegal search as far as I’m concerned.”

Looking to bill retroactively for services dating back “five or six” years, Ms. Fregoe said the three homes would be billed $957, $1,430 and $1,479 respectively.

Councilman Albert N. Nicola said he was curious if the residents of these homes were even aware of what was being discussed.

Mr. Gray said he didn’t think they were.

“I don’ think they are,” he said. “They’re just going to get a big fat bill from the village, because apparently the village needs money.”

Mr. Macaulay also said he wondered whether homes in the village were also being targeted, adding he would not allow an “inspector” in his home.

“They’re not coming in my house without a warrant,” he said. “You can put that in the paper if you want to.”

Mr. Gray said he doesn’t believe it is fair to expect people who have been paying their water bills to retroactively pay for service, but he also said he doesn’t think they should be billed for the additional service in the future either.

“I’m opposed to the back collection of water fees. These people already paid their bills,” he said before making a motion that would “forbid” the village from collecting the additional fees.

“We should continue the practice we’ve established over the past 10 or 15 years,” he said.

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