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Small New York town faces 123% water rate rise

By Dena Pauliing
Press & Sun-Bulletin
 
June 9, 2006

TOWN OF DICKINSON -- Just when everyone thought the Johnson City water rate increases were over, the Town of Dickinson got its water bill -- and it must pay the village over $50,000 more annually.

As a result, water users in Prospect Terrace face a 123 percent water rate increase, because they, like the residents of Choconut Center in the Town of Union, use Johnson City water.

"It may not sound like a lot of money, but it is because we are only talking about a few people who use the water, not a huge enclave of residents," Town Supervisor Michael Marinaccio said.

A homeowner who uses 3,000 cubic feet of water pays $28.50 per quarter. Under the proposed water rate increase, the homeowner would pay $61.50 per quarter or an extra $132 annually.

Marinaccio sent a letter to village Mayor Harry Lewis on Thursday, urging him and Johnson City trustees to reconsider the rate increases. It is uncertain if and when the town's proposed increases would take effect, but Marinaccio said the town board would probably take the issue up at an upcoming meeting. The next meeting will start at 6 p.m. Monday at 531 Old Front St.

"I'm concerned that this will have a serious, adverse impact on the Prospect Terrace residents and possibly with some of the new development occurring there, too," Marinaccio said. "I'm not sure what Johnson City's problems are, but I'm hoping they can work them out without increasing the rates so high."

Johnson City Trustee Bruce King said he wasn't sure what the village could do, but said he would be willing to talk with Marinaccio and Union Supervisor John Bernardo about the increases. Union, which also receives the village's water, faces an increase of about $50,000 annually.

"We will see what we can do to help them, if anything. Maybe there are some shared services that we can do," King said. "Hopefully, they will come to us with some information to make it work."

Lewis could not be reached for comment.

Marinaccio said he is already exploring the possibilities of getting water elsewhere, but he is "hoping that we don't have to start drilling and looking at having our water supply. That can be very costly."

King pointed out that it may seem as though Johnson City is behind all of the increases, but it's really up to the towns to decide how the costs are dispersed. And, he said, if Johnson City hadn't voted to raise rates, it would have faced a deficit, "putting us back $200,000 behind the eight-ball again."

According to the budget, most of village water department increases were in personal services:

* Retirement benefits went from $0 to $44,841.

* Transmission and distribution personnel services, such as salaries, overtime and summer help, went from $246,672 to $298,238.

* Hospital, medical and dental insurance went up $62,500 for a total of $222,500.

* Equipment costs rose from $5,400 to $14,000.

* Contractual expenses, which include copper and concrete replacement, increased $22,100. 

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