Written by Jill Nossa Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00
The Glen Head-Glenwood Civic Association held a town meeting last week with officials from New York American Water Company, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the high water bills many residents say they have been receiving since the company took over service for the area from Aqua two years ago. About two dozen residents attended the meeting, held at the North Shore High School cafeteria.
“Our bills have become outrageous since you took over,” said George Pombar, president of the association, after introducing the representatives and listening to their presentation on usage. “What has made them so high?”
The water company provides water for Sea Cliff, Glen Head and areas of Glenwood Landing and Old Brookville. Brian Bruce, vice president of operations for NYAW, gave a presentation explaining the company’s capital improvement plans and outlined the components that make up customers’ water bills. He said the company is investing in infrastructure, with plans for water main upgrades, water meter replacements, service replacements, a Glen Head tank replacement, and water production improvements. He assured the audience that the rates for water usage had not increased since 2006, though the utility will be applying for a rate increase from the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) for 2015.
Bruce explained that about 1,800 customers had not been billed for their actual usage when the company took over, so their initial bills were likely higher than in the past. He said the differences in water bills could be caused from increased water usage, and said a property tax surchage has been added to all customers’ bills: 30 percent of each customer’s bill is a result of property taxes that the utility pays, which has increased from $1.1 million in 2011 to $1.5 million in 2013.
Community members in attendance were generally not pleased with his explanation, expressing skepticism and frustration.
One Sea Cliff resident said, “My water bill has almost tripled since you guys took over...I’ve called many times and you guys told me I probably have a leak.”
One woman said, “Give us a clear explanation...all of us have used so much more water?”
Bruce said, “I need to see individual bills to assess the usage.” He said that he has already looked into some complaints and has seen “no big discrepancies” between the bills.
“I’ve lived here 40 years and I can’t afford the water,” said one man.
One woman said her bill stated her usage was over 9,000 gallons per day, as opposed to 1,000 per day during the same period last year.
“Something isn’t logical here,” commented a resident.
As the meeting went on, people became more and more agitated with the company’s lack of answers.
“You are a publicly traded company providing the public with water,” said one resident. “You should be able to provide answers.” He later noted, “If you want to charge more money, you should provide us with more service.”
“We feel victimized,” said one woman. “We’re sitting ducks. What’s our choice? The issue is not our usage.”
At the close of the meeting, Pombar told the audience that they would continue to have discussions and that civic associations have been talking to other water districts to see about finding another water service provider and “maybe we’ll buy them out and become our own water district...but that’s easier said than done.”