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Public hearing scheduled for possible new water district in Massena

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MASSENA - Homeowners along Highland and Leslie roads will soon have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the possible formation of a water district that would be required to cover the cost of repairs to those existing lines.

The Massena village Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to establish a public hearing to gauge whether those homeowners would be in favor of a water district in that area.

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. “The Department of Health frowns on dead-end systems like we have there now.”

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.

In September, Mr. Fayad presented a series of alternative methods to the 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.

Some village officials feel those who utilize the water system should be the ones to pay for the repairs as opposed to village ratepayers.

“It’s unfortunate for the small group that’s in the district because they’re going to have to cover the costs of that district,” Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said. “We own it, we maintain it and sometimes you’ve got to do the hard thing.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to have village residents pay for those water users,” Mayor James F. Hidy added.

Town Councilman Charles “Chuck” Raiti, who was present as the meeting, noted the village would need signatures from the residents of Highland and Leslie roads before it can move ahead with the formation of a water district.

“The residents would have to petition, or the town would have to petition,” Mr. Raiti said. “Until those things happen, we can’t do anything.”

Officials from the town and village welcomed the public hearing as a way to gauge how those water users feel about a possible water district.

Some of those water users have already critized the proposed plan, saying it is unfair to charge them after they’d paid water bills to the village for so long.

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

Village resident R. Shawn Gray, who retired from his post as foreman of the village’s career firefighters this past summer, criticized the opinions of village officials that it would be unfair for village ratepayers to fund the repairs along the Highland and Leslie road lines. He noted that it is commonplace for taxpayers to fund services which they may not utilize, such as single parents who pay public school taxes.

“Being a part of a society there are fees you incur that you don’t necessarily utilize,” Mr. Gray said.

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