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Cape Vincent officials mull new rules after state declines to investigate private water connections

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CAPE VINCENT — The Town Council, unable to persuade the state to launch an investigation into unauthorized water hookups in Water District 2, plans to propose a set of uniform rules that would allow it to assess all of Cape Vincent’s water districts.

More than six months have passed since Water District 2 residents refused to let engineers hired by the town government onto their properties to map private connections made to the district.

While Cape Vincent officials view their lack of cooperation as a health and liability concern for the entire town, district residents are adamant they have the right to maintain autonomy over the privately funded extensions.

The town government sought state intervention, but its request for an investigation has been turned down by the comptroller’s office, town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey said.

While the Town Council is considering adopting a set of standard operating procedures for all of the town’s water districts, Mr. Hirschey said, a public hearing on the issue would not be held until February.

Created in 1997, Water District 2 has only three sanctioned users: Donald J. Mason, a former town councilman, Wesley A. Bourcy, and Darrel J. Aubertine and his wife, Margaret S., who own a Hell Street property.

Mr. Aubertine has been chairman of the town Zoning Commission, a Town Council member, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, a member of the state Assembly and Senate and currently is the commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Mr. Aubertine and other district residents have said they oppose the town’s extending the district to include outside users and taking control of water lines installed entirely with private funds.

Fourth Coast Inc., Clayton, which the town hired for a ground survey of the district, suspects there are 12 additional users, but engineers were denied access to properties for verification.

In its survey report last summer, Fourth Coast also pointed out that there are no agreements in place with these unofficial customers and they are not assessed capital costs related to the maintenance and improvement of the water system.

District 2 draws water from the Development Authority of the North Country’s regional water line on Favret Road, but the town government acts as the commissioner of the water line within Cape Vincent town boundaries.

At a town work session last month, Deputy Supervisor Brooks J. Bragdon said the town should be able to examine back-flow prevention valves to avoid any accidents and test water quality in all of its water districts.

“For the health and liability of the town, we need to make sure that we are testing the water. That, to me, is above the level of all the other things. We should be going out and testing wherever we can,” Mr. Bragdon said.

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