Niagara Gazette

January 22, 2013

Village, town talking water consolidation

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Change may be coming to the Village of Lewiston's water billing.

Though no decision has been made, village Engineer Richard San Giacomo presented a cost comparison between Village of Lewiston residential water bills and what the town would charge residents should it take over. The news is mixed in terms of cost savings.

"A few months back, the town came to the village and made an offer to take over its water," San Giacomo said. "We wanted to find out if there would be significant savings to residents if we have our water owned by the town." 

According to San Giacomo, about 62.5 percent of village residents would pay more in water charges should the town assume control. In addition, about 14 percent would save less than $25 per year.

Those figures are based on a sample size of 253 village customers, varying in both usage amounts and property value. Village water, billed every three months, charges residential use $3.55 per 100 cubic feet. The town, meanwhile, automatically charges its customers $14.90 every two months – its billing cycle – and $1.70 per 100 cubic feet for all additional use.

In terms of averages, San Giacomo said, a household valued at $100,000 using 6,400 cubic feet of water annually, would pay $227.20 in the current system and $213.05 if the town assumed control. The cost savings of switching also increases as property values increase and water usage increases, he said.

But residents who leave the area for a period of time during the year would likely see their bills increase dramatically, he said.

Snowbirds, as they're called, who leave for the winter, use considerably less water throughout the year, meaning the town's minimum fee would cause costs to increase from $79.40 annually in the current system to $173 if the town assumed control.

"Village residents will pay a minimum even when they're out of town (with a switch)," he said. "If you have your water shut off, even in the months you're not here, you'll still have to pay the minimum to the town."

"We're looking at the figures and we're going to have to talk to the town about it," Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said. "Right now it's still wide open."

But town Supervisor Steve Reiter said San Giacomo's calculations don't take into account discounts the town will soon provide all of its customers on their water bills.

He said townwide rebates would provide residents, even those who leave for an extended period of time, additional cost savings on top of what was detailed by the engineer.

"If you only use a small amount of water, it would reflect differently on their bills," Reiter said. "We're going to start giving people discounts on their bills. So the discount would be much greater. (The village) has no discount to offer. So if you don't use more than the $14 per bill and we give a $20 credit, you'll have a $6 credit available on your next bill. You'd be able to save more money in the long run."

Reiter said he's given the village a deadline of February to make a decision.

The matter is expected to come up again next week during a proposed joint meeting between both village and town boards at 6:45 p.m. Monday in Town Hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston.