Chatham wonders whether water’s worth more

CHATHAM–The Village Board accepted the resignation of Waste Water and Treatment Plant operator Ed Czyzewski at a special meeting Thursday, September 26. The board met earlier that evening for a public information session about village water rates and needed upgrades on the system with Mary Beth Bianconi of Delaware Engineering, the firm that is helping the village with water issues.

The board is facing major work on the water tower and the reservoir. Right now the water rates villagers pay is not high enough to cover the current bills for maintenance of the system. Ms. Bianconi said that the village has currently budgeted between $6,000 and $7,000 less than is required. She suggested that if the board raised the water rate by 1% the village could make up for that deficit and put aside some money to be used for major repairs. She said it was wise for the board to look at a $20,000 cushion.

The village currently has about $300,000 in the water fund, which is already being used to offset the deficit in the water budget. Village Administrator Barbara Henry told The Columbia Paper that $300,000 is what it costs for a year to run the plant. And Ms. Bianconi told the board $20,000 can easily be used for one pipe break. “You’ve done emergency projects. When you get backed into a corner its costs money,” she told the board.

“We are thinking of getting an interim rate that gets us out of the red,” Mayor Tom Curran said of the proposed 1% increase. The board will look at projects and come up with a plan to deal with the most pressing issues for the water and slowly raise the rates to deal with debt service for those projects.

“What’s really important, when you get right down to it, is what is the check the homeowner is going to write to pay for this?” Ms. Bianconi said of future project.

She estimated that a 1% increase would mean $19.31 a year on average for village water users. The board did discuss water system users outside village limits and the waterlines that run to the hamlet of Ghent.

The board did not make any decisions on the increase. Ms. Bianconi talked about grants and federal and state money that can be used for future projects. But she said it would be hard for the village to get any grants with such low water rates coupled with relatively high incomes in the village.

The more immediate issue with the water is looking for a new operator at the water and sewer plant. Mr. Czyzewski is leaving Chatham to run the plant in Valatie. Mayor Curran said that Mr. Czyzewski was leaving on good terms and will be missed. One of the current village workers can run the plant once he gets the proper certification.

Before the meeting Ms. Bianconi recommended a firm called DCK Solutions LLC and also Joe Mayers, a retired operator who offered his services to the village. The mayor talked to both and said that DCK would take over operations using the village employees and would help with budgeting for $1,550 a month. The board plans to make a decision at the next regular board meeting in October.

Both Mayor Curran and Ms. Bianconi said that using the outside companies would be a temporary solution to the problem and would not replace village staff.

Also at the meeting the board:

Adopted a new local law saying that non-village residents can hold non-elective appointed Village of Chatham public office, like clerk or police chief. The current and former village clerks did not live in the village and the candidates for part-time police chief do not live in the village.

Heard that the mayor is looking proposals for crushed stone, a fence and drainage for the parking lot behind Main Street, between the businesses and the railroad tracks.

The next board meeting is Thursday, October 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale at .

 

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