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Massena village board again discusses maintenance fee for Highland/Leslie road residents

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MASSENA - When the village board next meets on May 21, there will be a public hearing to discuss the possible implementation of a maintenance fee for residents of the Highland and Leslie roads, where the village will be spending $100,000 to make repairs to the water line there.

Trustees Francis J. Carvel and Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies both voted against holding the hearing, although the board voted unanimously to allow Director of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad to purchase the materials needed to complete the project.

“Didn’t we vote not a couple months ago?” Mr. Carvel asked, noting that the board had previously voted 3-2 to move ahead without a maintenance fee.

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld, who together with Mayor James F. Hidy supported creating the fee, suggested Tuesday night implementing the fee for only five years instead of forever. That was enough to sway Trustee Patricia K. Wilson to support the fee.

“I had an issue with a forever fee, but if we can cap it on five years I’m fine with that,” she said.

The project would be paid for using $100,000 from the water fund’s unallocated fund balance. The maintenance fee would then be used to replenish the money used for the project, something Mr. Carvel said isn’t fair for residents of that neighborhood.

“These people are paying a water bill,” Mr. Carvel said. “It’s village property. It doesn’t matter where it lies.”

Mr. Carvel noted residents of the Highland and Leslie roads even paid an additional water fee up until the mid-90’s as part of a PILOT agreement.

Mr. Ahlfeld said he supports implementing the fee.

“I don’t think it’s fair for people in the village to subsidize what’s going on out there,” he said.

“They paid out there for 50 years,” Mr. Carvel responded. “The people on upper mortgage hill have paid it for less time and they get the same benefits.”

Mr. Fayad said he agreed with Mr. Ahlfeld and would like to see the fee implemented.

“It’s not fair for us to subsidize them out there,” he said.

“But it was fair for them to subsidize us?” Mr. Carvel asked.

Mr. Fayad replied, “They weren’t subsidizing us by any means.”

Mr. Carvel disagreed. “What was that PILOT used for? It was used to help keep the water rates low,” he said.

Mr. Ahlfeld said the implementation of a maintenance fee would allow the village to recoup the money it’s spending on the this project.

“My personal feeling is I think we should recoup it,” he said.

Ms. Wilson agreed. “I agree with what Tim is saying. We’ve got to take the money out of the account, but we need to recoup it somehow,” she said.

Mr. Deshaies joined Mr. Carvel in opposing the measure, “I don’t think we should add anything, period,” he said.

Mr. Carvel asked what the village was doing to recoup the money spent to repair the water main break from this past winter on East Orvis and Main streets.

Mr. Hidy said the money collected would be used for similar projects in the village.

“We’ve got to re-invest in our infrastructure,” he said.

A decision to implement such a fee could not be made until following a public hearing to discuss the matter.

“I think we’re going to do it regardless,” Mr. Ahlfeld said, referring to the project, noting the fee and the project itself were two separate issues.

“I think people should know they’re going to be charged for something they’ll never see,” he said.

According to a spreadsheet distributed to board members, should the funding be divided with Highland and Leslie road residents paying 85 percent and other village residents paying 15 percent, village residents would pay a total additional fee of $7.05 on their water bills for the next five years, while residents in the Highland and Leslie road area would pay a total additional fee of $49.63 per year.

Those fees include a capital upgrade fee of $3.29 and $23.14 respectively, as well as maintenance fees of $3.76 and $26.49.

“The amazing thing is this project started out at $245,000 and now it’s cut to $100,000 and they’re still trying to get more money from these people,” Mr. Carvel said. “We don’t need it.”

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