Water is rising in Niskayuna.
That is -- the cost of water will increase for town residents and businesses in 2020.
On Tuesday, the Town Board voted to set water consumption rates for residents of Water District 1 at $3 per 1,000 gallons of water used -- a 50-cent increase over the 2019 rate of $2.50 per 1,000 gallons.
The commercial water consumption rate was set at $4.50 per 1,000 gallons of water used -- an increase of 46 cents over the current rate of $4.04 per 1,000 gallons.
Comptroller Paul Sebesta said Water District 1 serves most of the town, about 8,000 residents. "There are very few properties that are without water, very few that are on wells," he said.
The increase is the first substantial hike for water in more than a decade.
"The rate was $2.50 in 2008 and it went up to $2.60 for several years from 2010 through 2015 and then it went back down to $2.50," Sebesta said. "So we're really going back 12 years to when it was first raised to $2.50. It's essentially been flat for 11 years."
Sebesta added that most residential households use between 60,000 to 80,000 gallons a year. A homeowner who paid $150 for 60,000 gallons in 2019 will pay $180 for the same amount in 2020.
Sebesta also said Niskayuna buys a considerable amount of its water from the City of Schenectady. "Their rate is indexed with the cost of living so every year we pay more to the city and have been getting the same amount from the residents," he said.
The board also voted to conduct a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. to discuss proposed new rent rates for the town's Sewer District 6, which serves most of the town.
Under the proposed new plan, residents who use up to 21,000 gallons of water in 2020 will be charged $63 for sewer rents, according to town figures. In 2019, residents who used up to 25,000 gallons were charged $62.50.
Also under the plan, residents who use between 21,001 and 50,000 gallons of water will be charged the $63, plus $3 for each 1,000 gallons of water used in excess of 21,000 gallons.
The proposal says residents who use more than 50,000 gallons will be charged $150.
Commercial rates will also be discussed. Business owners who use up to 21,000 gallons of water will be charged $73.50. The charge in 2019 was $75 for up to 25,000 gallons.
Commercial accounts that use more than 21,000 gallons will be charged the $73.50, plus $3.50 for each 1,000 gallons of water used in excess of 21,000 gallons.
The hearing will begin at 7 p.m.
SPEEDING REMAINS A CONCERN
During the privilege of the floor session, residents complained about speeding in the town -- an issue that has been discussed several times this year by both residents and town officials.
Mike Cassella of Rosendale Road said police patrols and speeding signs in parts of the town have helped.
"There's still more work to be done," said Cassella, who believes electronic signs that record excessive speeds -- and then issue traffic tickets to offenders -- could persuade motorists to reduce their velocities.
Linda Rizzo of Fairlawn Parkway said she has seen speeding vehicles on Fairlawn, Morrow Avenue and Orchard Park Drive.
"I've been out running with my dog and really, a car could miss you by this much," Rizzo said. "They're going beyond 35 miles per hour."
Rizzo said she has also seen school buses moving too fast.
"Those school buses speed," she said. "They turn corners, it's frightening, especially the empty ones ... they'd mow you down if you didn't get out of the way."
Rizzo and another resident -- Lorraine Zabin of Brookshire Drive -- expressed concern over the imminent arrival of Rosemarie Perez Jaquith to the Town Board.
Jaquith won election to the board in November, defeating Republican opponents for the seat vacated by Lisa Weber. Both Rizzo and Zabin are concerned about possible conflicts; Jaquith is also a member of the Niskayuna Central School District Board of Education and the Schenectady Industrial Development Agency.
Jaquith is legally entitled to hold seats on both the school and town boards at the same time.
"I really hope people on the school board speak to her and tell her this is not a good idea," Rizzo said. "You can't serve three masters. It's impossible."
Zabin also spoke against Jaquith's multiple service roles and suggested she resign her Town Board seat at Niskayuna's annual swearing-in ceremony on January 1.
"How many things can this wonderful person be involved in and are we (Town Board) getting our money's worth?" Zabin asked.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]