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Jun 28, 2019 2:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Water District Customers Could Soon See Significant Increase In Water Rates To Maintain Local Control

The Southampton Town Board met with Southampton Town Comptroller Len Marchese to discuss the costs associated with upgrading the HBWD's infrastructure. VALERIE GORDON
Jul 1, 2019 2:13 PM

Hampton Bays Water District customers could soon see a significant increase in their water bills if the Southampton Town Board ultimately decides to keep the water district local rather than turning it over to the Suffolk County Water Authority, as has been proposed.

At a work session on Thursday, June 27, Southampton Town Comptroller Leonard Marchese said that customers could potentially see a 20- to 25-percent increase in their water bills to fund two “priority” infrastructure upgrades.

The increase in rates would potentially fund the installation of a $3.6 million iron and manganese filtration system at the district’s fourth well field, located along Bellows Pond Road near Sears Bellows County Park, as well as the resurfacing of the site’s tanks, which is estimated to cost another $2.8 million.

“Everyone needs to know, it’s not a free lunch,” Mr. Marchese said.

The Suffolk County Water Authority submitted a proposal to take over the day-to-day management of the locally owned district last year, which included a total of $14 million worth of infrastructure upgrades—$6.1 million to be completed in the first three years.

Under the proposal, the cost of upgrading the district’s system would be shared with the water authority’s 1.2 million customer base, rather than just among the Hampton Bays Water District’s 6,400 customers.

According to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the water district’s superintendent, Robert King, has agreed that both projects are a priority. However, Mr. King could not be immediately reached on Friday.

At Thursday’s work session, Mr. Marchese noted that the district currently has approximately $1 million in its reserves—not nearly enough to cover the upgrades.

He suggested that the Town Board take immediate action and increase the district’s water consumption rate by 10 percent, which he said would garner roughly $109,000 in additional revenue each year.

On average, he said that the district collects $1.9 million annually from customers’ quarterly water bills and a $132 annual fee included in their tax bills, which currently goes toward funding maintenance and debt service.

Mr. Marchese estimated that an additional $500,000 to $700,000 is needed annually in order to fund the filtration system and tank resurfacing projects.

Mr. Schneiderman seemed supportive of Mr. Marchese’s suggestion to increase the water rate rather than the annual maintenance fee. “You pay for what you use,” he said. “If you want to waste water, you’re going to pay more than someone else.”

Currently, per quarter, a water district customer using 3,500 cubic feet, or 26,182 gallons, pays an average of $44.80 for the three-month period, including both usage fees and the annual maintenance charges.

The same amount used by a water authority customer would cost approximately $46.72, according to the authority’s CEO, Jeff Szabo, who has said that water rates would not increase under the management proposal—and the rate includes the infrastructure upgrades, which the local water district rate does not.

Mr. Marchese said that the water district has not increased its rates since 2012, when the Town Board, which acts as commissioners of the district, approved a 5 percent increase to its water consumption rates. He said that, on average, the water authority increases its rates by roughly 4 percent each year.

However, Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said she was hesitant to move forward with enacting a rate increase without first hearing from consultants D&B Architects. The Woodbury-based firm was hired by the Town Board in March for $47,000 to assess the condition of the water district’s infrastructure and establish a 10-year capital improvement plan, listing and prioritizing the items needing immediate attention.

“I feel like we’re operating in the dark without all the information I need to make an intelligent decision,” Ms. Scalera said.

Mr. Schneiderman, however, shared Mr. Marchese’s concern that by waiting to increase the water rates, the district would miss out on the increased revenue expected from the summer season. “I personally don’t think we have the luxury of waiting,” he said.

He pointed to 10 years’ worth of reports from Melville-based H2M Architects + Engineering, which have for years identified both the iron filtration system and tank resurfacing as “high priority” items.

In fact, at a recent work session in May, the Southampton Town Board met with Hampton Bays Water District Assistant Superintendent Richard McCuen and determined that one of two wells located at the district’s fourth well field would need to be taken out of service.

At that time, Warren Booth, a maintenance crew leader for the water district, said that recent test results showed a combined manganese and iron concentration of 1.8 mg/L at well 4-1 and 5.7 mg/L at well 4-2—both individually exceeding the state limit by a wide margin.

Until recently, water district officials were permitted to address the problem in the district’s water supply by injecting a polyphosphate orthophosphate blend to help prevent iron from oxidizing and causing discoloration, a process called sequestering.

However, under new Suffolk County Department of Health regulations, water suppliers can no longer sequester wells exceeding a combined iron and manganese concentration of 1 mg/L.

Mr. Schneiderman confirmed last week that well 4-2 has been turned off but 4-1 is still operational.

In May, Mr. Schneiderman had suggested that Mr. McCuen seek a variance from the Health Department to continue sequestering well 4-1. It’s unclear whether it has been obtained, as Mr. Booth referred all questions to Mr. King.

At Thursday’s work session, Mr. Schneiderman requested that Mr. Marchese reach out to D&B Architects to determine the status of the capital report and, at the very least, offer a recommendation as to the necessity of the filtration system and the tank resurfacing projects.

“I would be shocked if this wasn’t sitting in their action plan,” Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier added.

The Town Board is planning to meet with water district officials at a community outreach meeting on July 15 at the Hampton Bays Community Center on Ponquogue Avenue to discuss increases to the district’s water rates.

Mr. Schneiderman said that the Town Board will likely put the decision on whether to hand the district over to the water authority to a public vote—but only after receiving D&B’s recommendations.

“We’re trying to keep it local,” he said. “If the costs are significantly higher—if they want to pay for that, I think that’s their right.”

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It should be no surprise to anyone in HB that has been following there is deferred capital upgrades and maintenance needed and there is a cost associated with that. I wish the Administration would stop treating the taxpayers of Hampton Bays like they are idiots. The question is what is the cost for the Hampton Bays taxpayers if they join the SWCA and have to foot their portion of the bill for the upgrades and issues facing the SCWA that doesn't directly benefit HB? It also has been represented ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jun 29, 19 9:09 AM
HBWD was the one last asset not harmed by SHTB until the last few years.

HBWD and SHTB each mismanage their responsibility and play political games. No one has lost their job, or will. We come to know HBWD is underfunded, along with making many mistakes. HBFD is a super fund site and is a political machine that perhaps needs an audit to review best practices operationally and financially.
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Jul 1, 19 9:22 PM
Go County! Cool, Clean, Crisp water every time. It hurts to have to flush it at times. Hampton Bays, go county and you'll never go back..;).
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 29, 19 9:16 AM
How ridiculous.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 5, 19 6:55 PM
No kidding! It is worth having clean water.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Jun 29, 19 1:19 PM
Exactly - the taxpayers are willing to pay for clean water no matter whose control it is under...Remember the COMMISSIONERS are the Town Board since THEY want local control, but don't really want to work. They acted like "spectators" at the last meeting - like it was SOME ELSE's Fault.....so a year later, they are still chasing their tails... The worst Town Board EVER - anyone that voted for them should have buyer's remorse just about now. VOTE Jay and John out of office in November.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jun 29, 19 1:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
I'm not following your logic GA. What does Supervisor Schneiderman have to do with local controllers of the Hampton Bays Water District? Why should I have to pay more for water so that the Water District employees of Hampton Bays can avoid professional supervision from Suffolk County? Please explain why getting clean water for lower taxes from Suffolk County is not better than paying more for the same group that caused this problem I'm the first place? Are you for Suffolk County control of Hampton ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jun 29, 19 5:08 PM
dtree, the head of the water district is THE TOWN BOARD not the local management. THE TOWN BOARD are the COMMISSIONERS of the water district and ultimately responsible for this disaster and circus that has followed with no resolution. Regarding the dollars and cents....yes, our costs will be spread out over a larger base of customers, but conversely, all the other customers costs will be spread to HB customers? The question for the leadership is which is more if you are just looking at cost.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jun 29, 19 7:13 PM
So lets turn the HB Water District over to Suffolk County, get cheaper rates and cleaner water, and they can manage the local workers instead of the Town of Southampton.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jun 29, 19 11:39 PM
Because that is not how it works....the Town board will still be the Commissioners.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jun 30, 19 7:21 AM
Seems to me that this much of a disaster could not have been created in 2-4 years, it's been going on for well over a decade. I don't see how you can hold the current board responsible for that. Not to mention the fact that the water district management is responsible for reporting to the commissioners - it's their job to tell the town board what's needed, they are supposedly the professionals. If they say year after year that everything is fine, how is the town board to know otherwise? Go with ...more
By eagleeye (82), Sag Harbor on Jul 1, 19 9:42 AM
2 members liked this comment
The current Town Board has known way over a year and instead of acting in an effective and efficient manner they have been chasing their tails at the expense of the residents. What was the purpose of the survey on two separate occasions - what was the purpose of the meeting in the HS? How have they moved the needle an inch for a resolution?
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jul 1, 19 12:27 PM
Where did you hear that we would get "clean water for lower taxes from Suffolk County"? SCWA is not cheaper water.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 5, 19 6:57 PM
Can you show us please where you were promised 'cheaper rates and cleaner water'?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 5, 19 6:57 PM
Blue gold indeed.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 29, 19 4:43 PM
Please please hand over this water disrict to Suffolk co so that the hampton bays consumers dont have to carry the full load of upgrade.you have let us down in the past.you can not be trusted you will have your jobs ,we are not able to pay any more.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jun 29, 19 5:35 PM
2 members liked this comment
True, we wouldn't have to carry the full load of THIS upgrade, but we would continue to carry the load of all upgrades within SCWA territory.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 5, 19 6:59 PM
Why should incompetant lazy water district workers keep their jobs. Incompetance should be replaced NOT rewarded!!
By claypit (11), speonk on Jun 29, 19 5:55 PM
Why should incompetent lazy Town Board members keep their jobs?
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jun 29, 19 7:13 PM
and add insult to injury the Town Board met with themselves as Commissioners of the Water District and agreed to move forward with hypothetical build out (not even at maximum capacity) of 250 units of housing and at least a 100 bed assisted living facility that consume 141,000 gallons per day - 83,000 move than is currently being used. They sat around in a circle and patted each other on the back and told each other what a great job they are doing for Hampton Bays.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jun 29, 19 7:25 PM
The buck stops with the Commissioners.. They get paid for this responsibility. The SHTB//Commissioners let down the people of Hampton Bays with their poor management.and over sight of the HBWD the last number of years. The time is now for a change with SHTB and the HBWD..
By ZGerry (50), Hamptons on Jun 29, 19 10:49 PM
We have to go Suffolk! They have the ability to upgrade this old non effective water plant in Hampton Bays. The water around Squire Town area is infested with IRON....I wait for rain to fill my pool because I filled with town water and was reddish...I called them and said that one well is pumping IRON and cannot close it in summer because is no pressure then....go SUFFOLK people...less taxes that are already high and much better equipment!
By dany (33), Water Mill on Jun 30, 19 7:53 AM
Look at Bridgehampton, private that went to SCWA and all is going well...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jun 30, 19 2:51 PM
Bottom line: no matter what happens, HB residents will pay more.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 30, 19 10:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
That's simply not true, we get lower bills and cleaner water with a professionally managed district run by Suffolk County. Despite what GA Lombardi claims, Supervisor Schneiderman has nothing to do with the contaminated water in HB, this was caused by the HB Fire Department, itself governed by dubious personnel -- see this story by 27east -- http://www.27east.com/mobile/article.cfm//Hampton-Bays/49959/Hampton-Bays-Fire-District-Treasurers-Salary-Has-Doubled-Since-Taking-Office

It's like ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jul 1, 19 9:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
My water in Southampton sucks. All the water is the same coming from the same aquifers. Hilarious how people think they will get Poland spring if a new company takes over. As a SCWA customer all I taste is bleach.
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Jul 1, 19 7:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 5, 19 7:00 PM
Also there's a typo in the headline.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jul 2, 19 3:27 AM
Yeah, didn't realize Cutomers was a word. What ever happened to proper editing?
By FarOutEast (16), Southampton on Jul 8, 19 9:53 AM
The town spends a lot of money on things and lands that are not necessary or an emergency that they must spend. I get the feeling that Jay and the board wants to do away with the Water Dist. The cost to customers are going to go if the town keeps the HBWD but far less now and in the long run if it run by the SCWA. THE DOUBLE TALK FROM EVERYONE IS AMAZING. put up the money and fix the wells and install new wells if necessary. Done
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Jul 11, 19 12:06 PM
The water is not going to get much better no matter who runs the water authority. The wells on the East End have become increasingly more compromised over the last few decades due to over development and farm & road run-off. SCWA has been blending water from better and poorer wells for years. The primary benefit of going to SCWA is the efficiencies of size and we get rid of the patronage dumping ground management at HBWD. So if you like the idea of giving your hard earned money to do nothing management, ...more
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jul 11, 19 12:23 PM