CHATHAM–The Village Board agreed last week to adjust the water bills of users paying the minimum amount after residents complained that they had paid for three months of water in a two month period. The adjustment appears to be a one-time issue because the board plans to restructure its water bills so that everyone pays based on how much water they use.
Also at its meeting last Thursday, March 27, the board hired Mike Losa as the working foreman for Department of Public Works, a part-time position. Mr. Losa, the former Town of Ghent highway superintendent, will work about 15 hours a week for $22.50 an hour, according to Village Administrator Barbara Henry.
Mr. Losa, who did not seek reelection to his town position last fall, was scheduled to start this week.
As for the water bill credit, the village has 278 residents who pay a minimum rate of $39.12 a quarter. There are also 60 residents in the Town of Ghent outside the village who use village water and pay a higher minimum quarterly rate of about $66.
The minimum rate applies to those who use less than 1,000 cubic feet of water a month. For all others connected to the village water system, bills are based on actual usage. The issue of water bills came up because the board changed the water billing cycle to match the village fiscal year of June through May, and that adjustment meant that the most recent water bill covered only two months instead of three but the amount for minimum use remained the same.
“It’s a bad structure,” said Ms. Henry at the March 27 meeting.
Village Clerk Kathryn Burke said she had gotten several complaints from people who expected to pay the minimum amount of $39.12 covering three months of water use but found that the payment covered only two months instead.
In response, board members agreed to issue a credit equal to a third of the minimum use bills–$13.04 in the village and $20 for Town of Ghent residents. The credit will appear on the next quarter’s bills sent to those who use the minimum amount of water.
Mayor Tom Curran said that having the minimum fee was just the way the village always did it, but he said that old way was not destined to last much longer. According that the mayor, sometime this year the Village Board will change the water billing structure to include an access charge paid by all water users plus a fee based on water usage. The village will get rid of the minimum rate entirely.
Ms. Burke pointed out at the meeting that there has been a 5% increase in all the water bills but minimum users received an even greater increase because they were billed for a month of service they didn’t receive. “Instead of a 5% increase it’s more like a 38% increase,” she told the board.
She said that at least 30 people complained about the extra month being included on their bills, and the board received one letter from a Ghent resident about it.
In the meantime, the board has begun working on a Request for Proposals (RFP) from firms qualified to evaluate the whole village water system. The board is already aware of repairs that the village must make to the water tower, and before the board invests in that project, trustees want a professional review of the entire system.
The board is also asking publishing an RFP for maintenance of the garden in the roundabout. “It is a lot of work for the people who volunteer,” said Trustee Lenore Packet. The village has about $5,000 in a beautification committee budget line that members hope to use to pay for a person or company to maintain that garden during the growing season.
In other business last week:
•The mayor said that designs for the Safe Routes to School project, which would improve the sidewalks on Woodbridge Avenue, have been put out to bid. “I’m just hoping for the best on this,” said Mayor Curran. The village was awarded a grant for the project several years ago and has gone back a forth with the state and the school district about the scope of the project
•The board looked at pictures from Code Enforcement Officer Walter Simonsmeier of a house on Hudson Avenue with a barn that is falling down. The board discussed the cost of taking down the unsafe building and what legal actions the village can take against the owner. The village lawyer will be meeting with the board next week. No taxes have been paid on the property since 2008 and the county is foreclosing on another property owned by the same people in Ghent.
Mayor Curran said he thought the county was foreclosing on this property, and he also said it is the same house that the previous Village Board talked about demolishing because it was found to be unsafe several years ago.
“We pay for [the demolition] until the taxes are paid on it,” said Mayor Curran.
The board plans to hold several budget hearings next month. The state deadline for the village budget is May. The board plans to hopes to hold a final budget meeting on Thursday, April 24 at 6 p.m. before members adopt the spending plan at their 7 p.m. workshop meeting that day.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .