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Potsdam property owner ends water fight with annexation

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POTSDAM — Clean water will flow at Country Lane Apartments today for the first time in more than five years.

Owner Lloyd Vienneau has given up his lengthy fight against the village and Lowe’s Home Improvement. He blames blasting work done during the construction of the hardware store for the contamination of his well water in the town of Potsdam.

This contamination led him to petition for annexation into the village on Oct. 22, a request that was unanimously approved by both the Town Council and village Board of Trustees at a special joint meeting Wednesday night.

“I want to thank you all for helping me out, because as it stands the apartment would not be viable much longer,” Mr. Vienneau said.

His 31.3-acre property will be annexed into the village immediately, and the hookup to village water is nearly in place.

Mr. Vienneau said he has spent about $10,000 over the last five years trying to find a way to filter his well water, plus an additional $12,500 in a failed legal battle against Lowe’s.

His tenants complained of spending hundreds more buying bottled water for drinking and cooking in an attempt to avoid the brown, strange-tasting tap water.

The construction of Lowe’s may have been a victory for the village, said Country Lane Apartments resident Tina Kowalchuk, but for the tenants who have been without safe tap water for the past five and a half years, it has only been a bad thing.

“They’re winning, but we’re losing,” she said.

Mr. Vienneau previously had requested the ability to use village water without having to be annexed into the village. That request was denied.

Mr. Vienneau said he has lost three tenants because of the poor water quality.

“It’s been a mess,” he said.

In the last few months he finally decided to give up the fight. Being annexed into the village, and paying the higher property taxes that accompany the move, was his best and only option, he said.

Wednesday’s meeting was brief. Both boards approved the annexation quickly, with little discussion.

“I’m glad it worked out,” village Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis said.

The town usually fights against property being annexed into the village, but town officials said they were willing to move the process along quickly and without a struggle because of Mr. Vienneau’s difficulties.

Mr. Vienneau said he does not know exactly how much his taxes will go up, but he said he will have to raise rent accordingly.

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