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Cape Vincent sets Nov. 19 public referendum for Water District 6

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CAPE VINCENT — After much debate over the proposed expansion of Water District 6, the Town Council chose to leave it up to district property owners to decide for themselves whether to move forward with the $2.85 million project.

Each property owner will get one vote, and the council has decided to allow absentee votes. The referendum will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Cape Vincent Recreation Park on James Street.

“If you don’t like what you hear, vote against it,” said Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey at Thursday night’s council meeting.

Putting the issue up for a public vote also allows three council members to avoid potential conflicts of interest. As president of the Johnston Development Corp., Deputy Supervisor Brooks J. Bragdon was involved in the sale of several properties in the district, including Councilman Clifford P. Schneider’s. Supervisor Hirschey also is a resident of District 6.

The rate structure has been revised once more since the Sept. 5 public hearing for the district.

Of the 107 equivalent dwelling units in District 6, properties west of County Route 6 — 91.5 EDUs total — would pay the higher “A-rate” of $561 per EDU in annual debt service and a usage charge of $5.10 per 1,000 gallons of water.

This includes new users without municipal water service and several properties that already draw water from the village of Cape Vincent because the town intends to replace existing infrastructure to bring it up to code.

Residents on the east side of County Route 6 with water connections to the village main will be charged the “B-rate” of $88 in annual debt service and a usage charge of $3.25 per 1,000 gallons.

According to the project engineer, A-rate users will pay an estimated $840 a year, and B-rate users are projected to spend $248 per year.

All B-rate users “will see cost savings by being in the district,” said project engineer Matthew J. Cooper of Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown.

But existing customers of the village’s water service with properties west of County Route 6 could be spending 400 percent more for municipal water.

Maurice E. Fitzgerald, 31163 County Route 6, said he falls under the A-rate because his farm is on the west side of the road.

He currently pays a little more than $200 a year for water service but would spend more than $800 annually as a Water District 6 resident.

Mr. Fitzgerald also said he is in an odd situation, in which his property is connected to the town’s District 4 water main but he is being charged by the village for water use.

Since February, several town property owners near the village’s western boundary argued that they were lumped into the proposed District 6 expansion without their consent to make the project affordable for residents of the original district.

The original District 6 has been unable to secure outside funding because the average median income of its residents is too high.

After expanding the proposed boundaries of the district to include an additional 20 properties, the town was able to secure in August an $885,594 state Environmental Facilities Corp. grant and a 30-year, no-interest loan to cover the remaining cost.

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