While some get a break, others pay more

Chatham acknowledges water metering isn’t fair

CHATHAM–Village resident Sue Silvernale asked the Village Board last week why her water bill for the last quarter year was over $300 after the village had installed a new water meter in her house. It used to be $39, she said.

Mayor Tom Curran told her at the September 13 board meeting that the old meters wear out. Phil Genovese, who manages the village water and sewer systems, said that when the meters become worn they don’t measure all the water being used. “We’re changing them as they go bad,” he said.

“How is that fair?” Ms. Silvernale asked.

Mr. Genovese said it wasn’t fair.

The mayor said there are 800 water accounts using the village water system, adding that the meters are gradually being replaced but that it was “impossible to replace them at once.” He estimated it would take five years to replace all the meters.

Ms. Silvernale said she understood why the village had raised the water and sewer bills twice in the last year, doubling the rates to cover deficits in the systems’ operating costs. But she couldn’t understand why her usage bill continues to increase “and nothing’s changed in my house.”

Mr. Genovese said the new meters have an “alarm” that indicates if a meter is malfunctioning.

Ms. Silvernale said her meter is inaccessible, so she can’t see the alarm indicator.

Mr. Genovese and the mayor said village workers would pay her a visit.

And so it went for the better part of an hour.

More than a dozen residents attended the session.

Asked by another resident why there were two water/sewer rate increases, board member Mike Wollowitz said the first of the two rate hikes was “not a good estimate” of the amount of money needed to cover the water and sewer deficits.

Responding to a follow-up question about whether there would be future increases, Mr. Wollowitz said, “We really can’t say what the costs will be in the future.”

The mayor said it would take 10 years to reimburse the village for the money from the village general fund that has been used to cover shortfalls in the water and sewer system budgets.

Mr. Genovese emphasized his concern about village water mains, about a third of which are a century old and need to be replaced.

Switching to another topic, resident John Howe asked for an update on the fines and penalties charged by the IRS after the village failed to pay its federal withholding taxes. The mayor said that the village has met with the IRS about waiving the penalties, but board member Lenore Packet said that so far, “nothing’s been waived.”

In answer to the question how the board could have failed to notice the taxes had not been paid, board member Jay Rippel said, “That information was not passed on to us.”

Resident Stephen Piazza wanted to know why former village Treasurer Barbara Henry had been paid her salary in the month following her resignation. Mayor Curran said it was “standard practice.”

That drew a rebuke from Mr. Rippel, who said it was not standard practice. “Shame on us. Shame on you,” he said.

Mr. Wollowitz took another tack. Pointedly not referring to Ms. Henry, he said that it was a long and expensive process to remove a village official and asked whether it would be better for village taxpayers if an official left as the result of a resignation.

Mr. Piazza said that the cost of the resignation of Ms. Henry was “cumulatively a lot of money” and that “it’s our money.”

The board appointed the village accountant Robert Patterson as village treasurer last month. At the meeting last week the board approved sending Mr. Patterson to a week long training in Lake Placid with the NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) at a cost not to exceed $1472.85.

Also at the meeting:
Mayor Curran appointed Pete Minahan to fill the board seat vacated by former Trustee Gunnar Wordon. Mr. Wordon resigned last month and has moved out of the area. Mayor Curran said that Mr. Wordon resigned to focus on college commitments

The board approved the resignation of Victoria Hill as Village Court Clerk, and approved hiring Paula Wright to take that position

They also approved advertising for a part time worker at the DPW during leaf pick-up season. Mr. Genovese said much of his crew would be busy helping with work to put in a new water storage tank at the village reservoir. He also stressed that position had been budgeted for and the village has used part time help before

Board also approved a two year loan of $30,000 at 2.69% from the Bank of Greene County to purchase a new police vehicle

Assistant Fire Chief John Howe gave the fire report saying village firefighters had responded to 31 calls in August. “One of the busiest months I can remember in many, many year,” he told the board. He said that volunteers worked 20 hours straight during one of the heavy rain storms to help deal with flooding.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, October 11 at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial.

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