Written by Michael Scro Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00
The Village of East Williston was recently ruled against in the second round of lawsuits with neighboring Village of Williston Park involving the latter’s water rates—establishing a 13 percent increase from $3.83 per 1,000 gallons of water to $4.33.
Village of East Williston Mayor David Tanner said that the lawsuit, “still does not resolve the underlying problem between the villages, which is we feel that we’re being charged too much for water—the cost is excessive.”
Tanner said the village is still calculating the financial impact will be, and that the village has been making payments in escrow for every water bill received.
“Williston Park owes us money, we owe them money,” he said. “In terms of what the final number is, our village treasurer [Michael Delury] and attorney [Jeffrey Blinkoff] are working on that.”
East Williston prevailed in the first round, which began in April 2011, whereby they objected to a $3.85 per 1,000 gallon rate set by Williston Park, and the Nassau County Supreme Court found the rate was improperly set.
Following an appeal by Williston Park in the New York State Appellate Division of the Second Department, the second lawsuit was brought about in August 2012, contesting the $4.33 water rate.
After the Nassau County Supreme Court reviewed the case, it was transferred to the Appellate Division of the Second Department, which is also where the appeal of the first case was held, officials said.
Arguments took place with respect to each of these matters before the Appellate Division Department on May 5, 2014.
According to Village of Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar, East Williston owes them $400,000 as a result of unpaid rate increases, which was questioned at a Village of East Williston board meeting on Monday evening, as well as an additional $300,000 penalty.
Village of East Williston trustee Robert Vella explained the penalties were not ordered by the court, and said, “we don’t believe we have to pay them.”
“We have a legitimate issue with the way in which they reset the water rate,” he said. “Our only recourse was to acquiesce, which we weren’t prepared to do because we didn’t believe we were treated fairly, or contest—which is what we did. Now Williston Park is arguing that they are entitled to penalties, and we don’t believe that they are. Not under these circumstances.”
Village of East Williston Deputy Mayor Bonnie Parente explained that the court decision was that the increase to $4.33 was not found to be arbitrary, however did not rule the rate to be “not unreasonable.”
“Those are two very different words in the legal world,” Parente said, to which Vella added that the court, “simply upheld Williston Park’s rate increase as being lawful.”
On a long-standing idea for East Williston to establish its own water district, Tanner said they comprise 30 percent of Williston Park’s water sales, and a study was done in 2007 which found a district not feasible.
“We are looking into all of our options,” Tanner said. “My own personal feeling is that the ideal solution would be to establish a water district where all costs would be shared by both villages, have an independent board, and it would ultimately lower the cost for everyone.”
The issue of creating a separate district date back 37 years. Tanner read a letter from East Williston administration in 1977, which stated that funds to study all options with respect to water supply, including possible state and federal funds, for the construction of their own production facility, were suggested.
“If it was so easy, it would have been done 40 to 50 years ago,” Tanner said. “What we need is a permanent solution to this problem.”
Village Attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff delivered an update on the future demotion of the property at 8 Sumter Ave., stating that as soon as the village receives a signed order from Nassau County Supreme Court, they will begin the process of necessary disconnects from gas, electric. etc. in the home to prepare for demolition.
Blinkoff said that costs involved with the demolition as well as disconnect fees have been submitted for court approval to be transferred to the property’s tax bill.
Following a pending foreclosure investigation, Blinkoff said there had been a proposed auction that had been held off following an order to show cause filed by the property owners, John and Theresa Muzio.
“There is no decision, and that case remains pending as well,” Blinkoff said. “Unless and until we hear otherwise, the demolition remains scheduled with the court’s order.”
The deadline for the Muzios to remove all articles from the property before the demolition begins is July 28, and according to Blinkoff, prep work can not be done before the July 28, as the village does not own the property.
According to Village of East Williston trustee Christopher Siciliano, a fence will be placed around the property during the demolition.