Rotterdam

Rotterdam holds informational meeting on metering, water bills; plans for more

It was a packed house during the Rotterdam town board meeting in Rotterdam Junction Wednesday evening.
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It was a packed house during the Rotterdam town board meeting in Rotterdam Junction Wednesday evening.

ROTTERDAM An informational meeting surrounding water metering and water billing in the town of Rotterdam started off heated during the town board’s Wednesday night meeting in Rotterdam Junction Wednesday, but ended in thanks and applause to the board. 

After the town board approved all of its agenda items, it began an informational meeting with Rotterdam Junction and other town residents regarding the two subjects that last more than two hours.

Residents have been in an uproar over high June water bills and confusing information about whether the town will be metering residences. 

METERING

On Wednesday night, every board member at one point or another expressed that town officials did not want to meter residences following the start of passionate comments from residents that they did not support the town installing them. 

“People right now in this town, in this economy cannot afford to have more money taken from them,” said Shawn Taylor, the Junction fire chief and a resident. 

The recent attention to metering surfaced after the town learned in January that a permit approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation 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 for the DEC. However, board members have remained firm that they don’t want metering and will do whatever they can to avoid it, even recently passing resolutions urging state lawmakers to enact bills precluding them from having to abide by the DEC mandate to install meters. 

“Neither the previous administration or this administration is in favor of water [metering],” said board member Evan Christou. 

Christou, who owns Tops American Grill, Bakery and Bar, said businesses in town are already metered. However, he said metering shouldn’t happen for residents. 

“There’s no economic benefit to metering residences in the town of Rotterdam,” he said. 

If metering was to happen in town it would be a ways down the road, said Doug Cole, of Prime Engineering, the consulting firm that has been working with the town on the plan.

“It’s a long process,” said Cole, who is also a town resident. “If metering is to happen in town it’s a 6-to-10-year process and there’s a lot that has to happen between now and actually putting meters in homes. 

He said an engineering study would need to happen, as well as discussions regarding how to put in the meters and check them.

A big part of the metering plan provided to the DEC also covers establishing water conservation outreach and education and creating a leak detection program, Cole said. 

Cole said the town already has codes that limit when sprinklers can be used to certain times and days, but the board admitted they haven’t really enforced the policy. 

However, Cole said people can also just make sure they don’t have leaks from faucets or running toilets. 

“It’s the small things that add up,” he said. 

Water meters weren’t the only things on people’s minds. Many residents, particularly in the Junction, wanted to know why their water bills were so high. The topic brought to light other water issues in the Junction.

WATER BILLS

“It’s not fair for anyone on Putnam Street to call two of their neighbors and ask them to turn their water sprinkling off so they can have pressure to take a shower,” Taylor said. 

He and others in the crowd said the volume of water that Junction residents are receiving isn’t worth the over $600 bill they will be paying this year. 

Board member Joe Mastroianni said the June bill is higher because, when accounting practices were changed, the cost for operation and maintenance moved from being on the January tax bill to being on the June water bill. 

On top of that, bills are now done based on units rather than being based off of someone’s assessed value. So, residents in the Junction are paying more for water than some other districts due to having fewer units splitting the costs. 

“There’s less people in the water districts in Rotterdam Junction, so because of economies of scale you each pay a larger share,” said board member Joe Mastroianni. 

Junction resident David Bills asked whether the town would go back to charging based on assessed value. 

“I don’t know if that’s the fair way of doing it,” Bills said. 

Dodson said that will be reviewed when the board begins looking at next year’s budget. 

Board member Samantha Miller-Herrera asked whether water districts could be consolidated to ease costs in the junction. 

“I know there had been some discussions previously about doing it and we just didn’t get that far,” she said. 

If the junction was just to combine with Water District 5, which has 12,000 units, everyone in those districts would pay $178. That would be a $490 decrease for Water District 3 residents and $20 increase to Water District 5 residents. Miller-Herrera said she was willing to eat that cost in order to lessen the burden in the Junction. 

“We are one town,” she said. “Our services should be equal across the town. Our services should be more than adequate across the town.”

During the meeting Taylor also raised concerns about low volume in the Junction but he said the town hydrants are getting rocks in them, which can end up damaging the fire trucks. A large part of that problem is that the Junction runs on antiquated infrastructure. The larger sewer main along Main Street was put in in 1948. 

Residents expressed that they’d be willing to pay a higher bill if it meant they got something in return, such as upgraded infrastructure that was also partially covered by grant funding to provide better services. 

“You can’t charge someone for garbage services,” Taylor said. 

The board said they hear district residents loud and clear. Dodson said the board is looking at doing around five more informational meetings this year. He also said while a representative from the DEC was unable to attend the Wednesday meeting they have indicated interest in attending future meetings. Those meetings have not been scheduled yet.

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

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1 Comments
William Marincic May 13, 2022
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Just as I said, great job by the board.