Chatham village takes bath on new water rates

CHATHAM–The village is facing major shortfalls in both the water and sewer budget lines this quarter and the trend looks like it will continue for the rest of the year, reaching $159,000 in water and $149,000 in sewer by the end of the village fiscal year next spring.

At a special Village Board meeting last Thursday, September 28, Mayor Tom Curran said, “It’s looking like we’re going to have to bring our rates up.”

Board member and water and sewer Commissioner Mike Wollowitz expressed concern about why the village faces such a large shortfall. He pointed out usage has not dropped much since the village changed the rates in March. Mr. Wollowitz said that when the board changed the rate structure members looked at usage and budgeted accordingly.

“So that shortfall is a quarter of the budget,” he said of the total yearly budgets for the water and sewer departments.

The sewer budget for the village fiscal year (June 2017 through May 2018) is about $472,000 and the water is $490,000, according to Village Treasurer Barbara Henry.

Ms. Henry and Village Clerk Debra Meyers both pointed out that the new rates are based on usage alone and do not have a minimum fee. Before the changes were made, any village property that used more less than 1,000 cubic feet of water paid a minimum rate every quarter. Residents outside the village in the Town of Ghent, who received village water, paid over $66 a quarter in minimum usage fees. They now only pay for water usage. Ms. Meyers said some people in Ghent are now paying as little as $20 a quarter. “People have come in and thanked us,” she told the board,

But the loss of revenue from a basic service fee, Mr. Wollowitz pointed out, is “still only a tenth of the shortfall” the village faces. He questioned whether the board “miscalculated” when it adjusted the rates.

Another issue Ms. Meyers brought up to the board about the water and sewer rates is that there are 31 broken water meters in the village and three of them are in businesses. She said the meters in both Our Daily Bread locations are broken and the outside meter at the Chatham Real Food Co-Op is broken, so she has to estimate that bill every quarter. The village once had 80 broken meters, Ms. Henry said and there are replacement meters waiting to installed by the village’s DPW.

“We know we are not getting accurate readings,” Ms. Henry said of the broken and outdated meters in the village that need replacement. She and Ms. Meyer asked the board to talk to DPW about making the meter replacement a priority.

Trustee Lenore Packet also pointed out that the board had never addressed the contract with Edgewood Acres Mobile Home Park, which uses village water. The mobile home park pays a single set fee according to a contract that Ms. Meyers said expired in 2012.

Ms. Henry said the board needed to know how many mobile homes are hooked up to the system in the park.

Mr. Wollowitz kept coming back to the numbers though. He said, “We came up with budget amount based on the water use… but we’re missing it by 25%.”

He told the board that either they missed something in their planning or “the budgeting was optimistic based on usage.”

The board will revisit the issue in upcoming meetings.

Also at the meeting:

• The board approved the Climate Change Mitigation Easement with the Town of Ghent so the town can install an electric vehicle charging station at Depot Square. The town will “be immune from the Zoning Regulations of the Village of Chatham” according to the resolution. Ghent received a state grant to put in the car charge in the village. There will be several chargers in the parking lot, which is on land owned by the village

• The board approved the Friends of the Tracy acting on behalf of the village to apply for the Pomeroy Grant for a Historic Marker at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall.

The next Village Board meeting will be Thursday, October 12 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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