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Murray votes to refinance water district debt, which could save about $20K a year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2020 at 8:20 am

Highway Department making progress reducing leaks in water system

MURRAY – The Town Board voted on Monday evening to refinance the debt for water districts 2-11 and 13, a move than is expected to save $512,000 over 27 years in reduced debt payments.

The town is working with Jeff Smith of Municipal Solutions to take out a new bond at a lower interest rate. Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio said he has been working with accountant Bob Fox on ideas to reduce costs for water users.

Fox said refinancing the debt, during a time of low interest rates, would bring down the annual debt costs. In Murray, Water District 1 is already paid off and other districts have many years of paying down the debt where it doesn’t make as much sense to refinance right now, Sidonio said.

The Town Board was unanimous in the vote. Sidonio said there is still one more vote needed, once the bond proposals come in. That gives the town a chance to not proceed with the refinancing if Murray officials aren’t happy with the terms of the deal.

Sidonio said Municipal Solutions is pushing to have the refinancing in place before 2021, which should provide some debt relief to the 11 water districts next year.

Sidonio also has been raising concern about water loss in the town’s water districts. He said 40 to 60 percent of water in the town hasn’t been billed since January 2018. That is costing Murray about $100,000 in annual water loss.

The Town Highway Department has had success in recent months reducing that loss by changing water meters. The Highway Department last week also found and fixed a big leak on Ridge Road.

Louise Passarell, acting highway superintendent, said the repair already has reduced some of the water loss. She expects to see significant reductions in water loss in future water meter readings on the Ridge.

“It was a great find, a great repair,” Passarell told the Town Board.

She and Sidonio had a tense exchange, with Passarell telling Sidonio he is hurting department morale by not acknowledging the reductions in water loss made by the department, and by frequently talking about the water loss, including given interviews about it to the media.

She said Sidonio has told some people the water line repair on the Ridge was a “fake.”

“I feel like their reputation is being smeared,” Passarell said at the town meeting.

Sidonio said he heard that the leak repair was a fake and only shared that with a councilman in private. He told Passarell he should have been called to the scene.

He praised the highway workers for the success in reducing the water loss. Sidonio said he wants a better working relationship with Passarell and the highway department.

“You may not like me but you should appreciate the position,” Sidonio said about his role as town supervisor. “I look forward to rectifying this and working together.”

He said he will continue to press for reducing the water loss and unaccounted water, saying the water department is in “dire straits.”

Ron Vendetti, the retired code enforcement officer, attended the meeting on Monday and urged the town to make the water loss and unbilled water “the highest priority.” Vendetti said the losses amount to about $300 a day for taxpayers.

“Do whatever you have to do to get it done,” he said.

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