After a lengthy Request for Proposals process, the Village of Sea Cliff last week hired Walden Environmental Engineering, at a cost of $74,000, to study whether switching from private to public water is feasible.
The study will examine two possibilities — whether the village could establish a new public water authority, or join another such authority, Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy said.
Kennedy said that Walden, which is headquartered in Oyster Bay, has helped municipalities locally and across the country determine whether they should acquire water assets, including in the Massapequa Water District.
Sea Cliff Water Service Area Advisory Committee Co-chair Lawrence Ruisi said Walden has also worked with the Jericho Water District, so it is familiar with the North Shore, including its infrastructure and terrain. “If you have something that’s going to be deep, broad and needs to be done quickly,” Ruisi said, “you need somebody who has familiarity with the infrastructure and the surrounding water districts.”
Ted Nitza, a senior project manager at Walden and an environmental engineer who will oversee the study, said the company is collecting information and building a database about the finances of NYAW’s Sea Cliff Water District. Jericho will be among the water districts that will be considered for a partnership, he said.
“When we say feasibility,” Nitza said, “it means how or in what different ways these same assets, these same staff members and these same facilities could work together under different ownership than there is now.”
Walden is expected to complete the study in June, but the pandemic might hold that up, he said.
Sea Cliff Mayor Edward Lieberman said the village would decide if it would be best to establish an independent public water authority or join one. Sea Cliff has had private water since the 1880s, but Lieberman said he was confident the village could move to public water.
Agatha Nadel, director of North Shore Concerned Citizens, a public water advocacy group, said she was “absolutely ecstatic” that the study had begun. “Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of the end for private water in our community,” she said.
Nadel said the Senate legislation to establish a new water authority is as important as the feasibility study. She said she and her fellow NSCC members encourage residents to write to their state representatives calling for an authority.
“I can’t say how important it is,” Nadel said. “This legislation absolutely has to be passed.”
Ruisi noted that the study comes as NYAW is selling the Sea Cliff Water District to Liberty Utilities for roughly $608 million. Public hearings on the sale were set to start this spring, but were postponed because of the pandemic.