New York American Water customers will attend a board meeting of the Jericho Water District on Feb. 7 to plead a case for consolidation. The purpose is to see if Jericho Water would be willing to absorb customers in the Sea Cliff district under its jurisdiction in the event of a state condemnation of the private company.
“County Legislator Lafazan contacted Jericho Water stating that certain New York American Water customers wanted to address the board regarding this issue,” said Peter Logan, the superintendent of Jericho Water.
Josh Lafazan, a Democrat from Syosset, worked with George Pombar, the Glen Head-Glenwood Civic Association’s president, to broker a meeting. “My heart broke when I heard what was happening to hardworking men and women who did nothing wrong, and I wanted to take action,” Lafazan said.
Lafazan reached out to Thomas Abbate, the chairman of Jericho Water, to arrange for local customers to appeal to the board about why consolidation is the best move, although it was emphasized that Jericho Water could not directly initiate the process.
“Expansion of the district’s boundaries is a complex undertaking, which is not within the unilateral control of the district itself,” Logan said.
Neighboring legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove, has been seeking action from the state about consolidation for months. “The governor’s office is not committed to anything as far as final solutions, but they’re also exploring options,” she said.
DeRiggi said that the meeting with Jericho Water would determine if the district would be interested in servicing Sea Cliff’s customers, if consolidation is possible, and what it would entail. “Ultimately, it’s going to come down to expenses,” DeRiggi said. “We’re far from a solution, there’s just not enough information yet.”
And expenses, it seems, are scarce. In the months following exorbitant rate increases from NYAW — most of which account for property taxes — customers in the Sea Cliff district called for a local takeover, by the town and the county, to condemn the company.
NYAW President Carmen Tierno said that the company is continuing to pursue additional tax relief meaures to relieve its Sea Cliff customers of paying property tax surcharges.
“We terminated the RAC/PTR Surcharge of $26.95 per month, and reduced the Incremental Property Tax Surcharge (IPTS) by about $10.75 per month,” Tierno said. Together, this represents an annual reduction of $398.48 for the average residential customer.
Despite this, some residents believe the only way to drown out NYAW is for the state to intervene.
“The Town of Oyster Bay does not have the financial resources, and neither does Nassau County,” said Glen Head resident Bill Mozer. “The state has the resources to make this happen, and it’s going to take moving mountains in Albany for this issue to be turned over to the district.”
Lafazan first announced the meeting at North Shore School District’s Legislative Night, which excited residents.
“Just the fact that this step was taken is so nice to see, even though it should’ve been taken a long time ago,” said Agatha Nadel, a community activist from Glen Head. “There are no guarantees, but it’s a step forward in our fight, and hopefully if the state condemns [NYAW] we will be able to be [serviced] by Jericho Water.”
When asked if Jericho Water had the capacity to support Sea Cliff’s customers, Logan said, “It is premature to discuss the district’s capabilities to handle a theoretical expansion.”
Although a big conversation of “what ifs?” the push for consolidation under Jericho Water seems to be positive.
“Because Jericho Water is close by, it seems it could be a good avenue to explore,” DeRiggi said.
Pombar added, “Hopefully they’ll give us details on how we can move forward; at least we know where to spend our time now.”
Mozer believes that keeping the state on its toes is key in condemning NYAW once and for all. “There’s a logical sequence that seems to be moving along nicely, but we need to keep applying pressure to Cuomo to get the ball rolling,” he said.