2009-08-27 / News

Council to consider water, sewer hikes

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Town Council will debate, and possibly vote on, a significant increase in water and sewer rates at its Sept. 8 meeting. The town has already proposed a 15 percent increase in the sewer rate; during the Aug. 24 meeting of the council, a consultant recommended a 20 percent increase in the water rate.

The hikes are necessary to service the bond debt incurred for sewage and water system improvements. The council did not debate the proposed sewage rate-hike at last week’s meeting; however, the proposed water-rate hike has some council members looking for ways to distribute the increase among all island residents – even those who have drinking water wells.

“[Town] water is a value-added amenity and a [financial] burden on a specific group of ratepayers – even though the entire island benefits,” said Town Council member William Kelly. His view was shared by fellow council member Robert Sutton, who added that he would like to see these benefits quantified beyond the revenue analysis presented by consultant David Beeben.

One way to spread out the rate increase, said council member Barbara Szepatowski, would be raising the $75,000 fee that the town pays for renting fire hydrants – a fee listed as fire protection charges in the operating budget – to $150,000. There aren’t any hydrants beyond the village, but, because the rental fee is paid out of property tax revenue, an increase in the rental fee would be “shared” by all property owners.

Meanwhile, the town is proceeding with its efforts to sell the former town offices on Southwest Avenue. The adequacy of a 20 percent increase in the water rate assumes a $400,000 sale price for the property in 2010; without that money, there would be a shortfall in the revenue projected by the water division.

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