Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he’s still not sure what the next step is regarding the future of the Hampton Bays Water District.
Following a February 5 meeting with the town comptroller and senior vice president at D&B Engineers and Architects, P.C., Bill Merklin, the supervisor said some of the 14 people that spoke during the public portion asked to borrow the entire $30.5 million to upgrade the water district in one shot. Town Comptroller Len Marchese said the needed infrastructure improvements will cost hamlet residents an extra $421.06 over the course of a 10-year plan presented by Merklin.
“I don’t think that’s prudent,” Schneiderman said. “We have to have the conversation about if Suffolk County Water Authority is willing to absorb the rest of the borrowing and keep the rates from going up. I don’t know if they are or not, whether it’s still an option or not, but I think we should find out.”
Suffolk County Water Authority taking control of the Hampton Bays Water District has been a topic of debate for the last couple of years. The water authority had been interested as recently as December 2018, when a meeting was held at Hampton Bays High School informing the public of what the new ownership structure and rates would look like. At the February 5 meeting, Merklin presented a 10-year capital plan requested by residents so they could better ascertain what the costs would be compared to the water authority’s rates. The difference now is that Suffolk County’s water bills are up $80 compared with numbers from earlier meetings.
“If they are willing to have their entire customer base shoulder the debt service, of course we’d need to know those new rates over the next few years as well,” Schneiderman said.
Residents still like the idea of keeping it local, but the supervisor said he and the rest of the board have a fiduciary responsibility, and would like to give residents a choice.
“It’s incumbent on us to offer any alternatives and let the people of Hampton Bays decide what they want to do,” Councilman John Bouvier said. “If the water district remains intact, we should be talking about conservations efforts anyway. There’s saltwater intrusion, issues of drops in pressure, and a high water table.”
There has been previous discussion of a public referendum to settle the debate.
“In the meantime, we’re doing improvements that need to happen,” Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni said. “We’re not waiting on this.”
The town board recently approved a $6.355 million bond to, in part, pay for an iron and manganese filtration system to remedy a water discoloration issue that was a major cause for concern for residents in the summer and fall of 2018.