Rotterdam

Rotterdam asks assemblyman for law to stop water meter regulation, provide state funds

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ROTTERDAM – Three Rotterdam town board members are pushing for state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, to get legislation passed that would exclude the town from having to install water meters on residential properties and provide funding for water infrastructure improvements. 

The news release, sent late Wednesday afternoon, is in response to a letter Santabarbara sent the board March 23 against metering the town. 

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In that letter, Santabarbara said it would be irresponsible for the town to move forward with anything without laying out all the information to residents and receiving feedback. 

“Fortunately, we are all in agreement on this issue,” said Supervisor Mollie Collins in the release. “Rotterdam residents don’t deserve this being forced  on them by the state, when they are already struggling to make ends meet. The rising inflation is already taking a toll on our families, the state has to help. More importantly, we have a hometown representative in the State Assembly Majority who can help his community get relief from this mandate and secure the much needed financing to conserve our precious resource.” 

A petition circulated to stop the metering is nearing 500 signatures, said Nicole Parisi, Santabarbara’s chief of staff. 

“I’m pleased that my efforts have finally caught the Rotterdam Town Board’s attention to this problem they created, now that hundreds of residents have signed my petition to stop their plan to tax us for water,” Santabarbara said in an emailed statement. “The fact is, no one on this town board ever asked for my help because they were hoping this whole thing would fly under the radar.”

Santabarbara said he asked the town board to hold a public hearing on the issue and was ignored. Now, he said the town isn’t telling the public anything.  

“It’s only because I alerted the public about what was happening that they are now responding at all,” he said. 

Santabarbara said it is still unclear what is going on with metering in the town and that the town needs to stop the secrecy and hold a public hearing on the issue. 

Water metering has been a very contentious topic in town. The board is now looking to dispel some of the inaccurate information circulating about the issue, said Deputy Supervisor Jack Dodson. 

At an early March town board meeting, Collins, with a water meter prop, notified residents that the state Department of Environmental Conservation was looking to confirm a multi-year schedule to install meters. 

The recent attention to the plan to meter or measure water use surfaced after the town learned in January that a permit approved by the DEC to allow the town to pump more water included a stipulation that its water usage must be metered. In 2019, the town drafted a Potable Water Metering Plan that suggested the town would install the meters within 20 years, Dodson said. The DEC responded with comments and then in March 2020, Prime Engineering, on behalf of the town, submitted a final plan that called for the town to install meters within the next six to nine years. 

For the last few weeks, Dodson and Collins have been reviewing the plan. A meeting with the DEC is set for April 12, Dodson said, with a possible update at the town’s April 13 meeting. The town is trying to “push metering off as far as we can,” Dodson said. 

However, Dodson said it’s not just installing meters — the town’s water infrastructure needs to be updated. 

“We have some pipelines that are very antiquated,” he said. 

Costs to repair the infrastructure are around $28 million, said board member Joseph Mastroianni in the release. 

Mastroianni, Collins and Dodson said Santabarbara’s interest in the issue should lead to legislative action. 

“We have nearly 30,000 residents in Rotterdam who contribute a significant amount of tax revenue to the state, a return of some of that money for infrastructure purposes sounds like a no-brainer,” Dodson said. “Historically, Rotterdam has been neglected when it comes to infrastructure improvement projects, this is a great opportunity for the Assembly and Senate representatives to step up and help our community.”

Draft legislation and a letter have been sent to Santabarbara, according to the release. 

Board members Evan Christou and Samantha Miller-Herrera, who were part of the prior administration, were not included in the release. 

Both Miller-Herrera and Christou referred to the release as political posturing. 

“The “majority of the town board” is using tax payer dollars to send out press releases only representing three board members for political purpose during election season,” Miller-Herrera said in an emailed statement. “I wish they would use their time to work with other levels of government to find a solution instead of lobbing grenades.  This is a serious issue and deserves serious attention, not politics as usual.”  

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Christou said he found it hypocritical that Dodson was included in the release since he has advocated in the past for metering, but has since remained relatively quiet on metering the town. 

“It is disappointing that political grandstanding, and spending taxpayer dollars on such press releases has taken priority over actually getting work done,” he said. “This is proven by the fact that they didn’t have the courtesy to discuss with or include Ms. Miller-Herrera or myself in any dialogue.”  

Dodson has previously stated he believes metering would have benefits for the town. As an engineer, he has seen how meters have helped communities reduce their water usage by 30% to 40%, which cuts down on waste, he said. He also said the meter system would provide a more equitable distribution of the cost of using water.

Residents have expressed mixed feelings on metering. Some residents, like Robert Lowe, who lives in the Burdeck Street area, are against seeing it done. 

“It’s something that’s not needed,” he said, noting it looks like another way for the town to get money from residents.

He said he got quite irate after hearing about the issue on the radio from Santabarbara and called the town. He received a call from Dodson, explaining what was going on, he said. 

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Lowe said Santabarbara’s statements and what Dodson didn’t mesh. Nonetheless, he’s opposed to even the idea of metering the town, especially at a time of high inflation and seeing taxes go up in the town. 

He also said that metering becomes a quality of life issue because only those that can afford to pay a lot for water usage would be able to afford things like keeping their lawns green in the summer. 

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On the flip side, Steve Grandstaff said he’s in favor of water conservation and if metering helps the town do that, then he would likely be in favor of it. However, he said there are other ways to conserve water, inlcuding educating the public. 

Around five years ago Grandstaff, a Sharon Drive resident, said he became more aware of the need to conserve water given the droughts happening out west. Now, he doesn’t water his lawn or wash his car at home. 

If the town goes forward with metering, Grandstaff said information should be made readily available. 

“I think everything going around right now is speculation,” he said. 

Santabarbara said the town needs leaders with solutions. 

“They have no solutions, and are always looking for  more taxpayer dollars to bail them out,” he said. “And make no mistake, members of this town board campaigned on implementing this exact water meter plan last November, and now they’ve  simply been caught moving it forward without a way to pay for it. It’s clear that Rotterdam  residents want the town’s water meter plan stopped, and if the members of the board  have no solutions, they should resign so we find the right people to do the job we elected them to do.”

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on twitter at SB_DailyGazette.

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Categories: News, Rotterdam, Schenectady County

2 Comments
Zachary April 7, 2022
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This whole story is a sham, Santa Barbara is a liar looking to use this as political capital when he knows everything he saying is not true.

Rotterdam Residents – Don’t be fooled!

If you haven’t heard about the “water meter” controversy, then buckle up. First, however, it’s important to articulate some facts – not opinions {those will surely come}:

2019 – Town submits a Water Metering Plan to (DEC)

2022 – Fast forward to January 2022 – New Supervisor, two new council members: January 6 DEC sends a letter informing the town that the new permit is conditioned upon the entire water system be metered.

2022 – March 23 – New Supervisor – states at a town board meeting “The fact that the previous administration acted in secrecy without any input from the community is enough to put the brakes on the proposal.”

The current Rotterdam Town Board majority clearly rejected any plan to bring water meters to the town.

No public hearing was necessary, as the current Town Board majority was NOT considering a plan for water meters. Holding a public hearing would only confuse the residents.

Anyone who pushes a narrative that the town was considering a water metering plan is being untruthful and has an ulterior motive.

The spread of false information, creating confusion and perpetuating misinformation has absolutely no place in public service.

Get the facts.

Rotterdam residents are starting to see through these harmful and destructive campaign tactics. This is not surprising, the radical left agenda has been trying to cancel the Republicans and Conservatives for the last four years. Rotterdam residents are fed up and they proved it with the last election.

CAROLYN NARDIELLO April 7, 2022
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Rotterdam politicians work for citizens not DEC. (Edmond Day)