Late last August, John Fisher, whose property borders Munson Pond in Pleasantville, noticed a lot of water in his driveway. He thought it was odd since it hadn’t rained in quite a while.
Apparently, a main valve had broken and had to be replaced in a line that serves about 13 residents in the Munson Pond neighborhood.
The total cost for the repair was $8,550, and when property owners received their water bill, they were each charged $763.27 to cover the full cost of the repair.
“We were hammered out of nowhere,” Fisher recalled.
A few weeks later there was a water main break on nearby Bear Ridge Road and, according to Fisher, the total cost of that repair was $13,234. There were 65 property owners billed $203.60 each, including Fisher and the 13 residents who had already been charged for the first repair.
In early October, an additional repair had to be made at Bear Ridge Road. This time the cost was $8,176. Another 100 residents were charged $81.76 each. Fisher said the 13 residents in his neighborhood were not charged at all.
The disparity in repair payments within the different water districts, and the frequency with which the need for repairs has occurred, prompted Fisher and the Munson Pond Association to reach out to Village of Pleasantville and Town of Mount Pleasant officials to question the collaborative and adjacent village and town water districts and how future costly repairs could be more equitably charged. Fisher and several members of his association, who are all in the Pleasantville Water District, posed these questions at the Nov. 23 Pleasantville Village Board meeting.
Mayor Peter Scherer showed a map of all 10 water districts in Pleasantville and the Town of Mount Pleasant. The districts formed a hodgepodge of odd shapes and disjointed lines.
“Each water district has a special meaning and each district functions as a business unit,” Scherer said. “The districts were created by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the source of the water varies.”
Scherer explained that the village operates as a single water district while the town has nine districts.
“The expense of operating the village water system and the expense of maintaining and upgrading over time is borne by all village residents,” he said.
Pleasantville also supplies water to 476 properties that are not in the village. A master meter at the village boundary keeps track of how much water goes to residents in the Town of Mount Pleasant, and the village bills the town accordingly.
“Mount Pleasant operates an account with those residents; the only difference is that we are supplying the raw water,” Scherer said.
In the 1990s, Pleasantville invested millions of dollars to buy a share of the Millwood Water Treatment Plant, which it jointly owns with the Town of New Castle.
“We wanted high quality, filtered water. We continue to benefit from that investment,” said Scherer.
However, supplying high quality water to another water district has been problematic.
“Especially when [the water] is through pipes that are under another town’s streets and to customers who don’t live here and who are not taxpayers here,” Scherer said.
When a repair is needed in the village water district, it hires an outside contractor who generally charges top commercial rates that are passed on to village residents. When Mount Pleasant has to repair pipes in its water district, it calls on its own in-house engineer to do the work, which costs town residents significantly less.
Recently Pleasantville and Mount Pleasant reviewed their Inter-Municipal Agreement (IMA) to explore sharing responsibilities for their water districts.
Scherer told The Examiner that there will be a revised IMA.
“We simplified it and we will be able to have everybody sign off on it sometime this month,” he said. “The changes are straightforward. Essentially if and when another pipeline break happens, the Town of Mount Pleasant will use its resources to make the repair instead of the village hiring an outside contractor. The cost will be considerably lower. It’s at least a step in the right direction.”
Fisher said he had asked the town and village if they would include him and the Munson Pond Association in the IMA discussions, but were never invited to take part. Among the overriding issues Fisher said he wanted to raise included the existing pipelines’ age and condition and how best to finance the need for replacement to avoid escalating costs.
Fisher said he asked the village for a payment plan for the hardest-hit Munson Road residents so they could pay off their hefty water bills over time.
“We talked to the billing clerk and there seems a willingness to divide our payments in equal thirds,” Fisher said.
Last week a letter was sent from the village to its water district residents about deferring payment of water bills if residents are experiencing COVID-19-related financial hardship as per an amendment Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed to the New York State Public Service Law.