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Cape denies Water District 2 formula proposed by users

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CAPE VINCENT — The Town Council decided Thursday not to consider approving a revised formula proposed by residents to make water charges more equitable among users in Water District 2.

In a 4-0 vote with one abstention, the board instead decided to set a public hearing Sept. 3 to consider officially adopting a new water rate formula for District 2 and 3 users that was tentatively approved in May. Councilman Paul F. Aubertine abstained from the vote; his father, Darrel J., is a user in District 2 who helped develop the alternative water rate formula. Those three users, who supply water to 12 users outside District 2, are charged by the town for water they receive from the line operated by the Development Authority of the North Country.

District 2 users contend the town’s formula for water charges — based on equivalent dwelling units, or EDUs — causes some users to be charged too much. Because some users consume more water than others, they are charged more by the town for operation and maintenance costs owed to the Development Authority of the North Country. The town’s formula took effect in May, with the condition that it would be reviewed in three months.

The formula proposed by District 2 users would have divided operation and maintenance costs among the three users based on their number of outside connections. Mr. Aubertine, who has six outside connections, would pay 46 percent of the overall cost; Wesley A. Bourcy, who has four, would pay 33 percent and Donald J. Mason, who has two, would pay 20 percent.

In spite of his support for the plan proposed by District 2 users, Mr. Bragdon voted in favor of the public hearing to vote on the town’s formula. He offered no explanation for the apparent contradiction of his position. During the meeting, Mr. Bragdon said he spoke with users in District 2 and concluded they would strongly support the formula that would divide costs based on outside connections.

“My feeling is that EDU formula that would pile $5,772 per year on Wesley Bourcy on Lyle Wood, and that the other charge that would pile less than $600 per user is much fairer,” Mr. Bragdon said. “I think that’s a more equitable way to go.”

The dairy farm operated by Mr. Bourcy and Mr. Wood, which is assessed 64 EDUs, is charged about $477 per month under the town’s formula. Mr. Aubertine, who is assessed 23 EDUs, pays $171 per month.

Councilman John L. Byrne voiced his opposition to the residents’ formula. “I feel that if we use this rate structure that was handed to us, where they say there are approximately 15 users out there, to a certain degree we’re condoning having people hook up outside users,” he said. “I don’t think that’s healthy for our community. The rest of the community pays based upon EDUs. I believe that there’s no reason Water District 2 shouldn’t pay the same way.”

Mr. Aubertine said he abstained because the issue has been divisive. “I’m not going to vote on an issue that pits users against each other,” he said of the town’s formula. “And the way it’s broken down, I think it does. With the current billing system under DANC, we’re not providing a fair and equitable situation for Water District 2.”

In other business, the board decided to delay approving a revised zoning law that would update the law approved in 2012. It will hold a public hearing Sept. 3 to vote on the law. Proposed changes to the current law were made this year by the town’s Zoning Law Revision Committee.

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