Sweden residents learn about water district formation
Why isn’t public water available on my road? How soon can the town bring water to my neighborhood? These are questions often asked of Sweden Town Board members by residents in a Town in which more than half the land mass does not have access to public water.
The Sweden Town Board brought together a panel of water district formation experts on Saturday, May 10 to answer residents’ questions and to explain the water district formation process.
Engineer Jim Oberst, of MRB Group, led the presentation and was joined by representatives of the Monroe County Water Authority, New York State Department of Health and Monroe County Department of Health.
The experts discussed the complicated water district formation process and the obstacles the Town of Sweden faces due to its rocky geology, low-density population, and ineligibility for state and federal funding.
Only residents within a particular district pay for the water line. That means the cost of a new water line cannot be spread-out across all the taxpayers in the Town. In rural areas where houses are sparse, the cost of installing new water lines is prohibitive.
In addition, New York State caps the cost of creating a new water district. If the estimated cost is higher than the cap, the district has to go through a lengthy State Comptroller’s Office review. The Comptroller may still turn down the district formation if it feels the project is too costly.
Oberst highlighted the water district extensions that have occurred over the past eight years. The Sweden Town Board has been able to work with other municipalities/entities to make difficult water district extensions a reality, Oberst said. In all cases, the other municipalities contributed a significant portion of the financing needed for the project.
The Sweden Town Board commissioned a comprehensive water study in 1999 that laid out a plan for expanding public water in the Town. The price tag in 1999 was $7 million dollars. Several of the recommendations have been accomplished; the next five total approximately $4.7 million in 2008 dollars.
“The fact that your Town Board has a Comprehensive Water Study is more than most communities have,” said David Rowley, Regional Director of Water Supply Engineering for the NYS Department of Health. Rowley works with a 17-county region in western New York. “It seems to me that your Board has been very pro-active in coming up with unique partnerships to expand water. It looks like there has been a great effort here.”
More than 30 residents attended the meeting from various areas of the town – Redman Road, Salmon Creek, Beadle Road, Lake Road, County Line Road, West Sweden Road and Swamp Road.
Dave Preston of Redman Road asked if there was assistance for people with water quality issues. Rowley replied that most state/federal funds target repairs to existing water supply systems, not the creation of new water districts. Grants also tend to be awarded to communities with very low incomes.
Supervisor Nat O. Lester, III pointed out that there has been more district creation in the past eight years than during any other time period in the Town’s history. “Your town board would like nothing better than to provide water to every resident who wants it. Our hands are tied though by rules set by the state. We’re here today so that we can all be better informed about district formation.”