“The problem with water meters is the board has really failed on letting the public know what’s going on. A massive amount of confusion. … Everybody has their own truth, their own lies. … From what I see, it’s got to be slowed down.”
If you polled the residents of the town of Rotterdam on the prospect of installing water meters on their homes, you’re likely to get a reaction similar to the gentlemen who addressed the town board at Wednesday night’s meeting.
You’ll also likely get a response similar to that expressed by a senior citizen who wrote a letter to the town board recently.
The woman wrote that she was struggling to pay her mortgage and wouldn’t be able to pay for metered water.
She cited others with disabilities and on fixed incomes in the same situation as herself. She wrote that she wanted to see the analysis that this is going to benefit residents.
“I want to see the data. I want to see the vote,” she wrote.
Confusion. Questions. Fear. Anger.
Rotterdam officials are under a tight state deadline to provide a timeline for installing water meters. Yet many, if not all, residents are unsure exactly what’s going on.
They don’t know what the monthly or yearly cost might be or how they’ll be able to afford meters given their existing tax burden.
They don’t know who is going to install the meters on homes or who will have to pay for that.
They don’t know what will happen if they can’t afford their water bills or what the penalties might be for not paying.
They don’t know if there are grants available to help offset the cost or if they’ll have to shoulder the whole burden themselves.
They really don’t know much at all.
Whether this situation and the lack of information is the fault of the existing town board, the previous town board, the state Department of Environmental Conservation or the man on the moon is immaterial to these residents.
What matters to them is that the town is about to embark on a project that could have a significant impact on their lives and of their ability to continue to afford to live in their homes.
Maybe town officials have the answers. If so, they’ve clearly not communicated that information. More likely, they don’t know the answers to many of the questions, yet they continue to move ahead with the project.
We keep saying that government belongs to the people. It’s about time Rotterdam officials demonstrate that, but holding a public information session or hearing or something to give residents the answers to their many questions.
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara even got into the fray, writing a letter to the town over a week ago noting the residents’ confusion and the potential costs, and urging the board to set up a public hearing.
At some point, town officials will have to come clean and tell residents what’s going on.
That point is right now.