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Cape Vincent board OKs new water charges for users in Districts 2 and 3

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CAPE VINCENT — The Town Council approved a new formula for charging residents in Districts 2 and 3 for water usage at a special meeting to resolve a controversy over what some call unfair charges.

The town revised the formula Thursday for determining what residents pay for water and related charges from the Development Authority of the North Country. The authority operates a regional waterline that runs through the town.

The revised water rate structure will charge users in Water Districts 2 and 3 based on their water usage and number of equivalent dwelling units, or EDUs, per household. Previously the town divided DANC’s operation and maintenance charges equally between Districts 2 and 3. But doing so meant that some users were charged excessively while others paid less than their fair share. DANC bills the town for an allocation of 20,000 gallons of water per day.

The three active users in Water District 2, which was established in 1997, draw water from the DANC line. Meanwhile, the roughly 40 users in Water District 3, mostly single-family homes, have drawn water from the town since 2008. Yet those users continue to pay DANC operation and maintenance charges because they have access to the line as a backup water source.

The three users in Water District 2, who have made at least 12 outside connections to additional users, will be charged far more than those in Water District 3. According to data collected by the town, those three users consumed a combined 4,875,000 gallons in 2013, on average 13,356 gallons per day.

A proposal approved by the town will charge those three active users a combined 64 EDUs based on their water usage. By contrast, users in Water District 3 will collectively pay 44.25 EDUs. All single-family residences will be charged one EDU for operation charges for the DANC line.

“What the town has been doing was splitting the charge from DANC 50-50 between those two districts, but we realized that was not the best way to do it,” Councilman John L. Byrne III said Friday. “So we talked to the town’s engineers from Bernier and Carr to figure out exactly what folks should be charged. District 3 users are mostly charged one EDU because they are single-family homes. But in District 2, we don’t know how many homes are hooked up (to outside connections), so we took the water usage of users to figure out their EDUs.”

The move comes after the town received a letter in April from the state Department of Health urging it to take control of Water District 2 from its three sanctioned users to prevent water contamination and expand it to include other properties. The letter also suggested that the town should install a backflow-prevention device to ensure outside connections do not contaminate water flowing downstream. The DANC line runs from Cape Vincent to Brownville along the old New York Central Railroad corridor.

The three authorized users of Water District 2’s waterline connections are Darrel J. Aubertine, who works for the state comptroller as special assistant for external affairs; Donald J. Mason, a former town councilman who lives at 4670 Favret Road, and Wesley A. Bourcy, who operates a small dairy farm at 4224 Branche Road. A 2012 study conducted by Fourth Coast Inc., Clayton, found that all three users established connections with outside users.

Statistics provided by the town show that Mr. Aubertine’s water connection accounted for a total usage of 1,262,000 gallons in 2013, an average of 3,458 per day. Mr. Bourcy was billed for 4,875,000 gallons, an average of 13,356 per day. And Mr. Mason used 3,458 gallons, an average of 293 per day.

Attempts to reach Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey and Councilman Paul F. Aubertine on Friday were unsuccessful.

In other business, the board appointed Republican Michelle T. Oswald to fill a vacancy on the board after Clifford P. Schneider’s resignation. A former council member, Mrs. Oswald will serve on the board until Mr. Schneider’s original term expires at year’s end.

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