Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 21 October 2011 00:00
An ongoing battle between East Williston and Williston Park has been brewing for some time over water rates and it spilled over into Mineola at the Oct. 12 board of trustees meeting. The two villages are currently locked in a legal battle after East Williston filed a suit against Williston Park over rise in the water rates this summer.
Mineola Public Works Superintendent Tom Rini stated that Mayor Scott Strauss had received a letter from East Williston, inquiring if Mineola were interested in becoming the supplier of East Williston’s water distribution.
In 2007, the village of East Williston issued an engineering evaluation study by H2M to determine their needs and evaluate potential alternative sources of water supply. H2M sent out surveys to neighboring suppliers that connect to East Williston that is utilized in case of an emergency.
Albertson, Carle Place, Mineola and Westbury were sent surveys, according to Rini. Three of the four chose not to participate, while Mineola entertained the notion under then-mayor Jack Martins.
In 2008, Mineola reviewed the study and the report showed that the Williston Park peak (200 percent average daily demand) or fire (150 percent of average daily demand) demands of East Williston is rather large. Engineers evaluated that two suppliers would be needed to meet those theoretical demands. Rini said he advised East Williston at that point that Mineola would need an evaluation study of its own to see if the village could handle it.
The approximate annual demand of East Williston is 140 million gallons of water. The threshold of Mineola is at 1.4 billion gallons annually. Mineola hit 1.2 billion gallons the last two years. Fines would incur if Mineola were to go over the maximum water usage.
The survey would cost $17,500 and Mineola wanted it covered by East Williston, according to Rini.
According to village officials, East Williston wanted a guarantee that if they were to provide the funds, regardless of the outcome, that Mineola would become the distributor. Rini and former Mineola water director Fred Booher presented their findings to the board.
“That was the deal breaker,” Rini said of the guarantee regardless of study findings. “Mayor Martins at the time felt that was not possible. We felt that ‘We don’t know what the study is going to say, but you want us to give a commitment?’ Talks broke down after that.”
Rini, Village Clerk Joseph R. Scalero and Mayor Strauss met with East Williston in May and discussed the issue. The recent letter Strauss received was structured in a “non-binding way” that the study provided it impossible, Mineola wouldn’t be required to become the distributor.
“Fred [Booher] and I have concerns,” Rini said. “Our system is constructed to handle the village [of Mineola] and we already have projects that will require some heavy water usage; such as the Winston, the project on Mineola Boulevard, the hospital’s new research facility.”
The board reserved decision on the matter.
The cost of water for East Williston residents increased 28 percent recently, from the $2.99 per 1,000 gallons to $3.83, according to village officials. As of April 1, the new water rates are $5.47 per thousand gallons for the first 100,000 gallons used and $5.72 per thousand gallons over 100,000 gallons. Last year’s rates were $3.85 per 1,000 gallons up to 100,000 gallons and $4.10 per 1,000 gallons over 100,000 gallons.
“As far as costs go we could just say ‘How much do you want to pay for our water?’” “We can go through all reports and everything else, but what are they willing to pay? We have a responsibility to our residents,” Booher said of Mineola being the provider, which he advised against.
For years, Williston Park had been supplying East Williston with its water. The water has been fed through one water main across the border of the two villages.
According to village officials, the water is distributed through East Williston water networks, to homes in the area. The cost to produce the water is the same, but sources say Williston Park wasn’t incurring any costs to produce the water for East Williston. Those costs fell on East Williston.
The master water meter that measured all the water sent was apparently broken for a number of years. This was reported a few years ago and East Williston was being billed based on estimated water rates.
The meter was repaired a few years ago and a raise in water rates occurred, but rates were raised proportionally, which means East Williston was still getting wholesale rates. According to village officials, Williston Park was underestimating the amount of water that had been distributed annually.
Now that accurate readings were occurring, which showed increased usage, rates increased. This prompted outrage from residents, claiming they were being gouged. However, the rates were still at a discounted rate, according to officials.