Water authority hikes rates again to fund projects


Customers of the Water Authority of Western Nassau County will see their water bills rise again in the coming year to continue funding $55 million worth of infrastructure updates.

“Things cost money, and we’ve done major improvements,” said Marianna Wohlgemuth, New Hyde Park’s representative on the water authority’s nine-member Board of Directors.

The board voted May 23 to raise rates by 9.4 percent overall, with residential customers seeing a 4.1 percent hike while the $936 annual charge for fire hydrants will stay flat for the second straight year, the authority announced last Friday.

The new rate scheme, which took effect June 1, will charge customers a higher rate for using more water to encourage conservation, as recommended by a water rate study released in September, Superintendent Mick Tierney said.

The average resident’s water bill will increase to $466 from $440, the water authority said in a news release. The increase for commercial users depends on the size of their meter, but will rise $2,293 from $1,832 on average.

Residents and businesses will pay a higher rate after they use more than 144,000 gallons, as the rate study recommended.

The change will hit the water authority’s largest commercial users hardest, including Belmont Park in Elmont and Franklin Hospital Medical Center in Franklin Square, Tierney said. But encouraging water conservation will likely cut the water authority’s maintenance costs, as a larger volume of water puts more strain on its infrastructure, he said.

“If we can get people to have a much more conscientious view toward using the water — in other words, don’t go out every other day and wash down your driveway, that type of thing … it’s really important,” Tierney said.

While fire hydrant rates will likely rise next year, the board froze them to let the New Hyde Park Fire District and other fire departments adjust for an increase when they prepare their budgets in the fall, Wohlgemuth said. The rate study recommended raising the rate for maintaining the 2,432 hydrants by $74 to $1,010.

New Hyde Park Fire District Commissioner Michael Bonura did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The water authority is looking to “frontload” payments on the $55 million it borrowed last year for a five-year capital plan by implementing larger rate hikes early and smaller ones later, Tierney said. After an 8 percent increase last year, rates will likely rise between 2.5 and 3 percent in 2017, he said.

“The fact is that the market was in a good place to borrow the money and get these projects done, some of which are mandatory from the (Nassau County) Department of Health,” Tierney said. “You have to find the money.”

The water authority has started work on capital projects worth about $24 million in the past year, Tierney said.

The largest, worth $16 million, will install two treatment facilities to remove volatile organic compounds from four wells in Elmont that feed a 4.75 million-gallon storage tank, the water authority’s largest, Tierney said. That tank will also be renovated for about $2 million, he said.

“Our capital plan is robust, and I hate to sound cliche-ish, but we have an aging system and we’re trying to address all the problems that come with that,” Wohlgemuth said.

The water authority has mostly finished a $2.8 million renovation at its water tower on Second Avenue in New Hyde Park, Tierney said. It will also install a new water main under Celler Avenue in North New Hyde Park, Wohlgemuth said.


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