July 27, 2013

In My Opinion: County signed water pact with town


---- — After reading a recent article in the Press-Republican about the cost of water for the Essex County Public Safety Building, I felt the need to address a few concerns.

Any supervisor can check county records and not only find the town’s local laws but also the agreement that the county and town signed when the Public Safety Building was being considered.

The town sat down with Mr. Myers and our town attorney to discuss the water agreement, including how the county would be charged.

We were assured by the county that its usage would be minimal. Having worked at a facility slightly larger, I had an idea what the usage would be but was told the engineer stated it would be substantially less.

We reached an agreement, reducing the cost in increments for usage. The county would be treated like any other Water District user.

The county violated the agreement by not placing the meter at the curb stop, like others within the district are required to do and as mandated in the original plans.

Our DPW head checked several times during construction to see when they were going to install the meter; they said they would notify him.

Several weeks later, when he noticed the meter pit had been blacktopped over, he stopped and asked if the meter was in. He was told the county had changed the plan to save money. The county never notified the town of this change.

At the time, it was estimated that it would cost about $40,000 to put the vault and meter pit in. The town had offered a free meter; it just needed to be sent to be re-calibrated. The county chose not to do this.

The county wanted the meters to be read within the building, which is against our local law. We discussed a plan where water would be read at the main meter running into Water District 2, then the other users would be deducted, leaving the county’s portion.

We said we would take into account any leaks in the line and fire-system flushing and that the county could check its own meters and compare it to the amount billed. Did they do this?

Another requirement was that they use a pre-existing well on site to water the grounds and wash vehicles, to lessen the amount of water being used. Shortly after the building opened, the well was taken off line.

Last year, our DPW superintendent thought we had a leak in our system. Using a leak detector, he covered both water districts and found our main lines were fine.

He thought the leak was somewhere within the grounds of Public Safety. He mentioned this to the buildings and grounds supervisor, who said they had no leaks.

He continued to monitor the situation and still felt the leak was at the Public Safety Building. He again contacted the building supervisor. He finally contacted Rural Water, which brought in a machine that could more accurately find a leak. They said the leak was inside the building somewhere.

Upon inspecting the building with the supervisor, they found there was no leak within the main building. They then headed to the wastewater treatment facility, where Eldred Hutchins of DPW found the leak. He could see several inches of water in one of the three sediment ponds.

He asked when the meters had been checked and was told it had been a while. Upon entering the building, they could hear the water running through a valve, directly into the sediment pond. Once the broken valve was repaired, their usage dropped.

The figures Supervisor Roby Politi quoted were accurate during the time of the leak. Since that time, the bill has been reduced to about $62,000 per year.

I have been a councilman for 16 years with the Town of Lewis, and we have always tried to work with the county.

In fact, we still have the same meter available, but no one has contacted us about this. I would gladly speak to any supervisor or concerned individual about this matter at 962-4737.

Jim Monty is a longtime member of the Lewis Town Council.