Clarendon weighs turning over water system to Monroe County Water Authority

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 16 March 2016 at 12:00 am

Photo by Kristina Gabalski – The Clarendon water tower on Route 31A as it is seen from Hibbard Road.  Town Board members are working to make a decision on whether or not to turn the town’s water system over to the Monroe County Water Authority.

CLARENDON – Town Board members are considering turning the town’s water system over to the Monroe County Water Authority.

The Town Board on Tuesday asked Larry Swanger, the highway and water superintendent, to prepare a report with projected costs to the town if it continues to run the town’s water system.

“It’s time to start taking some steps,” Council member Paul Nicosia said.

Town Attorney Karl Essler advised council members to have someone complete a fiscal analysis of what it would cost the town to continue to oversee its water districts. The analysis would help leaders to make an informed decision about whether or not to allow the Water Authority to take over.

An informational meeting regarding the possible take-over was held for residents on March 10 at the Clarendon Firemen’s Recreation Hall. Town Supervisor Richard Moy reported during Tuesday’s Town Board meeting that he had received numerous phone calls and emails from residents following the information session, expressing mixed views over the issue.

“This isn’t something to be taken lightly,” Moy said. “Once you turn it over, it’s gone. Is that bad or good? I don’t know.”

The town is facing the expensive job of painting its water tower – a cost estimated at $500,000. Moy discussed the possibility of imposing a $0.21/day meter charge that would build a water maintenance fund for such expenses, should the town decide not to go with the Water Authority.

“Either way you go, it’s going to cost more money for water,” he said.

If the town continues to oversee water districts, it would likely have to impose the meter fee and hire additional help, council members said.

“If we are going to keep it, we’re going to have to run it like a business and hire people to do book work,” Council Member Marc Major said.

“How does it work out for taxpayers?” Nicosia questioned. “In the long run, what is best for them is the way to go. The town finances have been well run,” he noted, but water may be, “an anchor we are pulling along.”

Nicosia questioned what the town stands to lose if it turns water over to the Water Authority.

“Fixing it … painting the tower,” he said, and added those kinds of jobs would not be difficult to relinquish.

“We’ve done a good job spreading water through the town,” Nicosia said, but observed that Clarendon is a bedroom community and will likely never have significant commercial development.

Swanger, the highway superintendent, also serves as water superintendent. The Highway Department oversees work in the town’s water districts. Swanger has been on the job since the creation of the first water district in the town and council members said they felt confident that he could provide the fiscal projections they need to make a decision.

“Larry has been doing this for 20 years,” Major said. “He knows what we need and I would go by Larry’s advice.”

Nicosia said that as the town’s water infrastructure ages, maintenance could put a greater strain on the Highway Department.

“This thing could become a hornet’s nest,” he said of the town continuing in the water business.

Swanger said he could compile the information in advance of the April meeting of the Town Board.