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Village board sets hearing on Highland Road water project

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MASSENA - The village’s Board of Trustees has approved a plan to move ahead on a proposal to repair water pipes near Highland Road.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad has prepared a plan that will replace the existing water pipe along Old Orchard and Leslie roads but not re-loop it.

The estimated cost is $245,000, down from the previously proposed $475,000 project. The costs of the project will be split between village ratepayers and the town ratepayers who utilize that system.

The board will hold a public hearing at its Feb. 19 meeting on the proposed plan, after which the board may choose to vote on it.

“I think this is a good plan. I think we’ve got (the plan we want) now, I think it’s a fair plan and let’s move forward with it,” Mayor James F. Hidy said.

Under the plan, village homeowners would be billed $8.05 per year for a five-year period, while the homeowners who utilize that system will be billed $56.69 for the replacement of pipes in that area. In addition, there will be a permanent maintenance fee, which will cost village residents $3.76 per year and residents in the Highland Road area $26.49 per year.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld and Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad prepared a zero to 100 percent chart for the village’s contribution to the repairs. At 100 percent village cost, the homeowners near Highland Road would be charged the same amount as homeowners within the village limits. At zero percent, the costs fell entirely on those homeowners near Highland Road.

The motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with trustees Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies and Francis J. Carvel voting against it.

Mr. Carvel, who was previously the foreman for the village’s DPW. said he is against the plan because he believes the work could be done for much less than $245,000 if the DPW does all work in-house, rather than hire a contractor.

“I don’t think we’ve explored all the options; I don’t think we’ve explored doing (the work) in-house, which is what we should have done from the very start,” Mr. Carvel said. “I hate to say we’ll need this much, and we don’t even know how much it’ll cost.”

Mr. Fayad requested $245,000 because that’s the estimated cost for hiring a contractor for the work. The DPW could handle the project, but Mr. Fayad said the project would delay their work on extending, relooping and replacing other water lines in the village. He estimated the project would take approximately a month to fully complete.

“I have no problem doing the work in-house, as long as (the village board) knows that other projects might not be completed (while work is being done along Highland Road),” he said.

Mr. Fayad also said he is open to utilizing the town’s Highway Department as a way to offset costs on village ratepayers, should the DPW choose to do the work in-house.

Mr. Carvel pointed out that doing the work in-house avoids paying for the contractor’s profits, and that this method utilizes equipment and personnel that the village pays for anyway. He also said the work is not particularly difficult, costly or time-consuming, estimating the bulk of the project could be completed within one to two weeks.

“It’s not a major job to put in a couple hundred feet of pipe. It’s not building the St. Lawrence Seaway again,” Mr. Carvel said. “The trucks are paid for, the men are already there and the town has offered to help out. I think we owe it to the people of Massena to do the work in-house.”

In December, the village board considered a plan that would have put the full costs of replacing and relooping the system on the ratepayers near Highland, totaling $5,000 over a 10-year period.

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.

“It is infrastructure outside the village. We do have a responsibility to the people inside the village,” Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said. “I think this is an equitable way to (fund the maintenance costs).”

Mr. Carvel and Mr. Deshaies both expressed a dissatisfaction with the amount the plan charged the homeowners near Highland Road in arguing their case against the plan.

“The village took over ownership of those lines. The village has responsibility (to fund maintenance),” Mr. Carvel said.

He stressed he felt the new maintenance fee was unnecessary. “Why are we adding another maintenance fee?” he asked, suggesting the new revenue would simply be dumped into the water fund. “It’s for forever. Everybody already pays a maintenance fee.”

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 DPW has allowed the end of the pipe to leak to prevent the homeowners from receiving rusty water. Mr. Fayad has 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 2012-13 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, village officials had estimated. That proposal was panned by town officials and ratepayers in that area who attended the village board meeting last month when the proposal was discussed and later tabled. Many feel that because the village has sold water to those ratepayers for more than 50 years, it is obligated to foot the bill.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, who was a vocal critic of the previous plan, has called this plan an improvement over previously discussed alternatives.

With the relooping, after the pipe is replaced there will be a dead-end, which the New York state Department of Health “frowns upon,” Mr. Fayad said.

“They hate dead-end lines, they don’t want dead-end lines, but there was so much conflict in regards to the rates and who was going to pay (for the work) that we scaled this back, and the DOH is OK with what we’re going to do,” Mr. Fayad said.

Mr. Fayad said he is also “OK” with the proposed project.

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