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Cape officials continue to face backlash over proposed Water District 6 expansion

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CAPE VINCENT — Amidst ongoing backlash from several Pleasant Valley Road/County Route 6 residents over the proposed Water District 6 expansion, the town apparently has agreed to lower the water rate for at least one additional property.

Maurice E. Fitzgerald, 31163 County Route 6, originally was told his water bill would jump from $250 a year to $840 — assuming the expansion is approved by district voters Nov. 19 — but said the town recently contacted him to lower his rate.

Mr. Fitzgerald said he met with Town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey Thursday at Mr. Hirschey’s request and was told he would be paying the cheaper “B-rate,” which amounts to an estimated $248 per year.

“I’m not against it now,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “But they weren’t giving any consideration for people who were already getting village water for 50, 60 years.”

Last week, the town sent letters to owners of the 20 County Route 6 properties later added to the proposed District 6, previously known as the Tibbetts Point Water District.

But Mr. Hirschey said that this informational letter was not a rate change notification, and that Mr. Fitzgerald’s rate adjustment was an isolated case, in which the town determined he had adequate infrastructure and thus would qualify for the B-rate.

Since February, the Town Council has been facing criticism for expanding the proposed water district, lumping in 20 additional properties, several of which are already connected to the village’s water system, without the property owners’ consent.

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

Only after expanding the proposed district boundaries to include 20 properties near the village’s western boundary did Cape Vincent manage to secure state funding.

In May, Cape Vincent officials decided to charge a dozen County Route 6 properties a lower water rate. But there were still several properties on the west side of the road that fell under the higher A-rate, including Mr. Fitzgerald’s, even though they were hooked into the village water line.

A-rate users pay $561 per equivalent dwelling unit in annual debt service and a usage charge of $5.10 per 1,000 gallons of water.

The B-rate users would be charged $88 in annual debt service and $3.25 per 1,000 gallons for water use.

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.

But some B-rate users have argued that the town is trying to lure them with a lower initial water charge, only to hike their debt service and water rates in the following years.

To pay for the $2.85 million project, the town secured an $885,594 state Environmental Facilities Corp. grant and a 30-year, no-interest loan to cover the remaining costs.

Also, three town officials reside or own properties in Water District 6. 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. Mr. Hirschey also is a resident of District 6.

To avoid these obvious conflicts of interest, the Town Council decided to have property owners of the proposed district determine the fate of the project through a public vote.

The vote is scheduled for Nov. 19. Each property owner will get one vote, with absentee voting allowed.

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