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Town may pursue city water; negotiations break down for councilman’s property

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The town of Watertown might consider purchasing city water now that talks with Councilman Paul V. Desormo have stalled over buying land off Weaver Road with a well from him.

Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett confirmed that the town may bring in city water, rather than using a well, where the town already had paid to have tests done, from Mr. Desormo’s land. Residents in the northeast section of the town have been requesting town water because they have had problems with their wells for years.

After more than six years of on-again, off-again talks, Mr. Desormo and the other Town Council members are unable to agree on a price for his approximately 20 acres at 20638 Weaver Road.

“Negotiations have not been fruitful,” Mr. Bartlett said, noting that Mr. Desormo wanted more money than the amount of the “highest appraisal” established for the land.

Mr. Desormo said last week he had no idea the town was looking at city water until he saw a report on his desk the night of the March 14 Town Council meeting. The information was part of a progress report, about the northeast water project, given to council members that night, Mr. Desormo said.

It now will be up to Mr. Bartlett and the other council members to decide how water will be provided to northeast residents, he said.

“We’re going to have to probably wait to see what they’re going to do,” Mr. Desormo said.

The Town Council likely will discuss the issue again at next month’s meeting, Mr. Bartlett said.

At the March 14 meeting, Patrick J. Scordo, principal of GYMO Architecture, Engineering and Land Surveying, Watertown, told the Town Council that the town will have two options: spending about $2.8 million on a project that would consist of linear hookups to residential properties, or appropriating about $2.1 million without the residential connections.

During last week’s discussion, council members suggested installing 4-inch lines, instead of 2-inch lines, to accommodate future growth in that part of the town.

Mr. Bartlett pointed out that the project could proceed only with a 51 percent majority of affected property owners signing a petition supporting the water district.

City Water Superintendent Michael J. Sligar said Friday he last talked to Mr. Bartlett about 10 weeks ago and provided him with an abundance of information in case the town decided to go with city water for the project.

“There’s no question we’re open to doing it,” Mr. Sligar said.

In February, the Town Council met for about 30 minutes in executive session to talk about the negotiations. The town also has been interested in buying two other parcels. They are owned by Michael Ledoux, son-in-law of Councilman Stephen L. Rich, and the Assembly of God church that borders the councilman’s property.

Last year, Mr. Desormo was so unhappy about the situation that he threatened to resign from the Town Council.

As a council member, Mr. Desormo cannot negotiate directly with the board. State Supreme Court would have to come up with a fair price for the property and he then would decide whether he would accept that price.

According to the first appraisal, Mr. Desormo would have received about $60,000 for 4 acres or about $143,000 for 20 acres, depending on how much property the town decided to purchase.

If it can be worked out, the well would serve residents whose wells have dried up or contain bacteria. Some residents have to haul in water by truck. Three years ago, the town spent about $145,000 locating a well, drilling and testing the site.

The city already provides some town residents with water.

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