Monday, September 07, 2009

Whitestown Water Wondering . . .

Per the OD, people in Whitestown want to tap into a Rome water main that passes right by their houses on the way to Camelot Village in Westmoreland, but Rome is hesitating. Per the article, Whitestown's engineer was waiting to hear if Westmoreland or Camelot wanted to be reimbursed for the cost of installing the waterline. Councilman Sullivan thinks that neither should be reimbursed for work already completed.
“There’s no validity to that idea,” Sullivan said. “You can’t charge people after the fact. I really don’t see a lot of reasons why this shouldn’t move forward.”
This sense of entitlement from a Whitestown official is disturbing! After Westmoreland does all the work, why should Johnny-Come-Lately Whitestown expect to get something for nothing? But "Something-for-Nothing" is apparently part of Whitestown's "M.O." . . .

The Rome Sentinel gives this interesting tidbit:
[T]he town has been collecting a water fee from the residents along the route, so there is money set aside to pay for access.
People have been paying Whitestown for Something, but Getting Nothing.

The Winter 2008 Whitestown News gives the scoop:

The Town Board has been working to develop a cost-effective way to fund the installation of public water mains for Town residents along NYS Route 233 and the westerly end of Suttliff Road. Several years ago the Town Board and Camelot Village negotiated an equitable agreement to share in the construction of water mains extending from the Whitestown Business Park to NYS Route 233. However, the continuing disagreement between the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and Canal Corporation has prevented the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from issuing a Water Supply Permit necessary to allow the MVWA to provide water service to Westmoreland (and Camelot Village). Camelot Village and the Town of Westmoreland recently negotiated an agreement with the City of Rome to supply water to Camelot Village. Westmoreland will construct water mains along NYS Route 233 within NYSDOT right-of-way from the Rome/Whitestown line to Camelot Village . . .
What appears to have happened (and I invite Whitestown officials to set the record straight if I misunderstood something) is that Whitestown and Westmoreland had entered into a sharing agreement that fell through when MVWA was unable to secure a permit from DEC to supply the water that would go into the pipe... but Whitestown has gone forward and billed the residents anyway. Why is Whitestown still collecting money? Where has this money gone?

There is more to this story . . . more to question that is . . .

Contrasting the MVWA vs Rome supplier situations raises an interesting question: If a DEC permit was needed for MVWA to supply Westmoreland, would not one also have been required for Rome to supply Westmoreland? 6 NYCRR Part 601 (DEC's Water Supply Regulations) §601.3 requires a permit before agreements for water supply are entered into -- as well as several other circumstances that seem to apply here. However, searching the Environmental Notice Bulletin turned up no water supply permit application for Rome to supply Westmoreland.

Did Camelot Village/Westmoreland secure a permit from DEC to obtain water from Rome? Or did Rome secure a permit from DEC to supply water to Westmoreland?

If there has been an application for a DEC permit, it would appear that ECL 15-1521 could be used by DEC to force the issue of Rome supplying Whitestown.

Lastly, doesn't it seem a bit odd that Westmoreland can just up and ram pipes through Whitestown (with State DOT cooperation) and Whitestown has no right to say anything about it? This story seems stranger the more you think about it.

Government serves whom it wants to serve -- but it's usually the "little people" who pay their taxes and pay their fees who wind up taking the pipe.


onjeesun said...

I can’t say how it works for other water systems but here's how hooking up to the MVWA worked for us. First a geographic area was laid out to receive water and labeled (“Town of _____water district # …whatever….etc). The cost of the project was negotiated and settled on. Within the proposed water district, a home was assessed one full unit value; vacant land was assessed at one half a unit. A 30 year grant/loan was applied for and received. The resulting annual payment was then divided by the number of units, and they came up with an annual payment for the people within the proposed water district. The information was given to all of the current home or land owners in the area to be served and it was put to vote, majority rules. This vote passed and work began. Regardless of how you voted or whether you even hooked into the new waterline, if it passed in front of your property you had to pay the annual fee, which is collected through the tax collector.

Now, as things change….so does the annual fee. If a home is built on land that was once vacant, that property then goes from one half to a full unit. If someone decides to subdivide a large parcel into five smaller ones and build on them all, it would go from one half a unit to five full units. The annual payment for the grant/loan is divided by the current number of units every year, which results in a different payment every year. No one gets a free ride and as the resource is shared with more people, the payment goes down accordingly, and rightfully so. The exception to this will not come around until 30 years from now when the grant/loan is paid off, and by then it will be old news (as well as old infrastructure etc.). Councilman Sullivan’s remark about not “charging people after the fact” is nonsense and certainly not at all in line with how things have worked in the past, at least not from where I stand. It’s almost like if the MVWA were to build a huge pipeline across miles of vacant land, increasing the value of that land at the cost of it’s current customers and then allow anybody and everybody to tap into it. New subdivisions, Casino’s, empty reservoirs………oh wait……they did try to do that.

Anonymous said...

Rome isnt supplying water to Westmoreland with that line. They are supplying it to only Camelot Village.

Soon enough the town will need to find water from something other than their own wells. Hopefully the garbage between the MVWA and The State Canal corp. will be figured out by then.

Strikeslip said...

Anon - Actually, Rome supplying Westmoreland would be consistent with the 1968 Oneida-Herkimer Counties Comprehensive Water Supply Study, which recommended that central Oneida County be supplied by Rome's water source, and Eastern OC and parts of Herkimer be supplied by Hinckley. MVWA as a supplier to Westmoreland would leave Greater Utica and Herkimer County with a water shortage if the population growth that was predicted in 1968 ever comes into being.