Arkville district residents mull revised water project

By Julia Green
The Middletown Town Board held a second public meeting Monday night to discuss the proposed Arkville Water District upgrade. The majority of concerns raised by those in attendance revolved around the ultimate cost to taxpayers living in the water district, while there were virtually no arguments raised as to the necessity of the upgrades to the system.
Arkville Water Super- intendent Terry Johnson said that the proposed project represented the “bare bones” necessary, and added that if the well were to be compromised tomorrow, there would be no water in Arkville.
“This is the minimum to ensure that there will be no water interruption to the hamlet of Arkville,” he said.
After re-examining the budget line item for meters, the board was able to pare down the budget somewhat; the revised budget was discussed, as well as the projected impact on taxes and water rents within the Arkville Water District.
The proposed upgrade includes a new well for a back-up water supply, a new water distribution main along the Route 28 area, elimination of two dead ends in the distribution system, new water meters, and a control building.
The bottom line for the total project is estimated to be $1,833,375, just over $1.1 million of which will be funded by grants. Four thousand dollars in grant money was awarded by the O’Connor Foundation, while $500,000 was received from USDA Rural Development and $600,000 in a Community Development Block Grant. That leaves a total of $729,375 to be financed.
A breakdown provided at Monday’s meeting offered more detail about how the proposed upgrades would impact individual taxpayers.
While there are 235 “equivalent dwelling units,” or typical households, within the project area that would assume the debt, only 199 of those households use the water and would therefore contribute to operations and maintenance cost through water rates.
Currently, the typical household within the water district pays just under $300 a year. With the anticipated 2.75 percent interest rate, that figure would increase to $422 per year. With the worst-case scenario interest rate of 4.5 percent, the cost would be $461 per typical residential household. All numbers, however, are dependent upon the individual assessed values of different households.
A major point of concern for many of the meeting attendees appeared to be the increase in water rates and the simultaneous lowering of the minimum gallon allowance. New rates, based on an allowance of 5,000 gallons per quarter, would see users paying $30 per quarter per 5,000 gallons and $3 per 1,000 gallons thereafter. The current water rates, which have been in place since 1984, are $23 per quarter for up to 12,000 gallons.
Matt Currey, a representative from the NYS Department of Health, added that the DOH now requires that new systems have two water sources, and that Arkville’s current system is experiencing a lot of water leaks, resulting in gallons of lost water and potentially resulting in that “unaccounted for” water being billed to customers.
Candace Balmer, a representative from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) who was instrumental in securing grant funds for the project, tried to put the financial aspect into perspective.
“Just to fix the piping would cost $900,000,” she said, adding that with the current proposal, the water district would receive the piping plus the control building and all the other components for just over $729,000. “If you can get it, go for it.”
Middletown Town Supervisor Len Utter said, “I hope people don’t get the feeling we’re here to sell this,” adding that he’d feel better about making the decision if he lived in Arkville. But, he added, “The question is, as years go by, the system is going to have to be repaired – a new well is imminent. If it’s not replaced now, looking down the road, what’s the solution?”
It was a question without answer, though general consensus on the part of Johnson, Balmer, and LaMont Engineering consultant Jim Heiser was that financial assistance doesn’t get much better than the grant funds secured already.
Johnson added that all numbers are rough, and that they are hoping that, once the project is bid out and the final numbers come it, the bottom line will be lower, but acknowledged that there are no guarantees to that end.
The town board will continue to discuss the proposed upgrades, and will use input received at both public meetings to make a decision as to whether to proceed with the project.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Utter said.