Keeping Water District Local Could Cost Hundreds

Hampton Bays resident Debbie Sarube’s water was discolored through the summer and fall of 2018. Independent/Courtesy Debbie Sarube

Hampton Bays residents will get to hear how a proposed 10-year capital plan will affect their water district and its rates.

According to a strategy laid out by Town of Southampton-hired D&B Engineers and Architects, P.C., tackling the needed infrastructure improvements will cost hamlet residents an extra $421.06 to cover the estimated $30.5 million that will be bonded out in chunks over the next decade.

“We still have to wrestle with this idea of whether the people of Hampton Bays should be absorbing all that debt service, or whether we want to look to a larger utility that could offset some of those borrowing costs to potentially keep rates lower — losing some of the, perhaps, local advantage of having the Hampton Bays Water District,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said.

D&B’s senior vice president William Merklin will discuss the timeline at a February 5 meeting at the Hampton Bays Community Center at 25 Ponquogue Avenue at 7 PM. Town Comptroller Len Marchese will talk about the proposed plan’s gradual financial impact on water district customers, and there will be a question-and-answer session at the end of the meeting with the engineers, commissioners, comptroller, and water district management team.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. Independent/Desirée Keegan

According to the 10-year plan, Hamptons Bays residents will see the biggest increase in their water bills in the first year. On average, households will pay an additional $123.51 on top of their current rates. To reach this number, water bills will be rising 26.68 percent. Based on this year’s average annual water bill of $286.97, that number will jump $76.56. According to Marchese, a customer’s annual water bill over the duration of the 10-year plan will be increasing, on average, an additional $339.31. Hampton Bays Water District taxes also play a part. According to Marchese, the overall average tax increase over the next decade will be $81.75. This is based on an average assessment of $500,000 and with a two-percent cost-of-living increase year over year. A resident with that assessed value is paying, in 2020, $131.30. That number would rise to $178.25 the first year, and go up a few extra dollars each year after.

One topic the town will now need to address with the engineering firm though is shifting the timeline to include a quicker solution to remediate a pipe break under Shinnecock Bay. “It took a little longer than we hoped,” Schneiderman said. “It’s complicated when you’re fixing a pipe in the middle of the winter — in freezing cold temperatures — that also happens to be underwater.”

The pipes were temporarily run over the bridge, and, because they were exposed to the elements, froze several times. “They were really working under some adverse conditions and they laid several thousand feet of polypipe and kept the water going,” Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni added. “So, kudos to them.”

While the water main work was signed off on by the Suffolk County Department of Health, it gave the town until 2022 to eliminate the pipe from service. That pipe project was slated to be tackled in 2024 in the proposed 10-year plan.

The supervisor said suggested solutions to address the water main came in at $3 million. D&B advised the town against running a pipe under Dune Road because besides it being a vulnerable beach area, water in the pipe becomes stagnant due to its limited use. The supervisor said the Suffolk County Water Authority had looked at connecting pipe from Tiana Bay to the Ponquogue Beach pavilion, and running a second pipe under Ponquogue Bridge — not underwater, but attached to the bridge with a water circulator to keep the pipe from freezing. Schiavoni said following a meeting with the engineers the town was cautioned not to decide on a course of action just yet, especially with the cost potentially playing a bigger factor.

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