Over the years, Carlo Reca and his family have donated a lot of living things to the village and, at Monday night’s Village of Mamaroneck (VOM) Board of Trustees meeting, Reca stepped forward to give the village trees worth about $2,000. But he set some conditions: he’d like to see welcome signs on the borders of major village gateways and most important, a commitment to plant them at the optimal time and water them regularly.
As the weather gets warmer, water is going to become more precious—and expensive. Village water rates are going up 15 percent this year on top of three percent last year and a whopping 75 percent in 2010.
Tony Conetta, manager at Westchester Joint Water Works (WJWW), which buys water wholesale from New York City and sells it to several local municipalities, told the board that the price of delivering safe water will keep rising in the near future. He cited massive programs to protect upstate water supply areas from overdevelopment and other hazards, including storm water runoff projects, buying up rural land, building sewage plants, increased monitoring of the system and post 9/11 security.
Conetta said that there is a tremendous amount of catch-up work to do funding capital projects, especially the massive $1 billion-plus UV filtration plant under construction in Mount Pleasant, the cost of which will be shared by the municipalities served by the Catskill-Delaware system, including New York City and the VOM.
Even though it hasn’t been built yet, it is theoretically costing the village already in the form of fines that have accrued, which may or may not be imposed by the NY State Attorney General for construction delays.
Mayor Norman Rosenblum and the board tabled a resolution to open a public hearing on a bill to regulate large-scale water use in the village by allotting days and times for irrigating lawns, akin to the restrictions imposed in Long Island (in some areas, residences with odd numbered street addresses can only run sprinklers on odd days of the month; even numbered residences water their lawns on even days).
Other issues loom. Some residents have reported alarming and unaccounted for spikes in their water bills, said trustee Toni Pergola Ryan. Unusually high bills are usually the result of leaks, said Conetta, which can be difficult to detect. Homeowners are responsible for identifying leaks on their properties. He said the company is trying to find better ways to help identify breaches.
In general, Conetta said, the water delivery system is something of a mess. Most homeowners don’t realize that they are responsible for installing backflow prevention valves to keep sewage out of the drinking water supply, but there are no regulations for enforcement, he said. He also said that the situation is complicated because irrigation contractors do not require any licensing or certification.
Resident Leon Potok, a candidate for the board of trustees and current chair of the Village Budget Committee, called the rate hike unnecessary and said that the measure was being considered without full disclosure. “There is no need to raise water rates for the coming year,” he said.
The village has a surplus of $3 million in its water fund, he said, decrying the board’s “lack of transparency” and calling the Joint Water Works to post all current documents about the issue online in advance of meetings.
The board took an uncharacteristic 3-2 vote on the matter. Trustees Sid Albert and John Hofstetter voted no, leaving Ryan as the swing vote. She joined with Trustee Louis Santoro and Rosenblum in approving the rate increase.
Just before he brought down the gavel, the Mayor said that to “turn this down would be an incredibly irresponsible move by this board,” citing a long-delayed $800,000 project to fix a leak beneath Flagler Drive.
Noting the substantial financial commitments that will arrive in the near future, he said “I think we should raise it more than 15 percent.”
Correction: an earlier version of this story said the federal government imposes the above fines; it is actually done by the NY State Attorney General. We regret the error.