Citizens for an Informed Yorktown



Town Board Special Work Session

February 11, 2016


Closed Executive Session

Interview for candidate for town engineer


Open Session

The entire meeting was devoted to the Water District. Attending were Water Superintendent David Rambo, Assistant Water Superintendent Kenneth Rundle and Human Resources Specialist Margaret Gspurning.


As with last week’s special work session with the Parks & Recreation District staff, Supervisor Grace explained that this meeting was to give the board an overview of the department’s activities and long range goals.


In addition, he advised those present that later in the evening Catherine Paget, Business Director and Matthew Geho, Operations Director of the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works (NWJWW) would join the meeting to discuss an emergency capital project. (See below for this discussion and its financial implications.)


The following were some of the long term issues that were discussed.


Increase in water rates: The board agreed to a proposed local law raising the rate by $1.25/1,000 gallons to $6.25 (two options for smaller rate increases were rejected)  and set a March 1 public hearing.  The New York City pass through charge is in addition to the $6.25/1,000. (See discussion below about NWJWW emergency capital project.)


The increase will generate approximately $1.25 million. Basedon the average customer using 90,000 gallons a year. . For homeowners who pay the minimum bill of $45/bill, the new bill will be $56.25, plus the NYC pass through.


It was noted that Cortlandt adjusts its water rates annually, by resolution, based on increases in what the NWJWW charges; there have been four increases in the past five years.  Yorktown has not increased its rates in 10 years. Cortlandt currently charges just under $8.00/1,000. (The rate includes the NYC pass through.)


Mr. Geho noted that over the past five years, there has been an average percentage increase of 5.67% in what the NWJWW charges its member components. The NWJWW has  added on a 20 cents/1,000 surcharge onto the wholesale rate it charges its members to finance capital projects.


Distribution lines: The need to eliminate what the department calls “spaghetti lines,”  narrow lines put in many years ago that typically serve only a single house. These should all be connected to the district’s main distribution line in the street.


Water loss: The district loses the revenue from about 800,000 gallons a year due to water loss, i.e., water that is consumed but does not go through a meter. The loss is attributed to leaks, malfunctioning meters, breaks, and hydrants. Mr.Rundle noted that even a large water main break accounts for a small portion of the loss.  The department spends about $20,000 a year for an outside vendor to test for leaks in the entire system; based on the repairs made as a result of the findings, the department estimates it saves $50,000 a year.  The department would like to purchase a $30,000 piece of equipment that will help it locate leaks on an ongoing basis. Mr. Rundle explained that sometimes, because the source of the leak is not where the water appears, it takes department staff additional time to find the source of the leak. The board appeared to agree that the equipment was cost effective and gave Mr. Rambo the go ahead to prepared bid specs.


Meters: The department is continuing to use in house staff to install the new meters in meter pits. A total of 2,800 new meters have been installed. (The district has 10,000 accounts.) Mr. Rambo will meet with the town attorney next week to go over the legislation suggested by Supervisor Grace last year to require the new meters be installed when houses are sold. (See below 8/11/2015.)The board also directed Mr. Rambo to test the meters used to provide water to out of district users.


GIS Mapping. There was a continued discussion of the department’s need for a new GIS vendor and Supervisor Grace’s concern that there should be some consolidation or interaction between the GIS systems used by other departments. He said he hoped to get this issue resolved in 60-90 days.


Storage tanks: The existing tanks have been inspected and are all in acceptable condition. However, preventative maintenance is needed. One vendor has proposed a five year, $2 million contract to paint all six tanks, and, after that, for $410,000 a year, inspect and monitor the tanks.  There was no follow up discussion on if and when some of the tanks would need to be painted. (See discussion below about emergency storage tank replacement at NWJWW.)


Coordination with other departments: Mr. Rundle explained that the department had no problem assisting the highway department for snow plowing (by law, the district only plows within the water district) but that if a water main break occurs while department staff is plowing, the department’s first priority is fixing the break.  Also, the department has no problem sharing its specialized vactor truck with highway for cleaning out catch basins, but it wants a water department employee to work with highway on the task.  


Roof project: The future of the small building at  the department’s Shrub Oak location remained undecided. The issue was whether the cost of replacing the roof (and removing the asbestos shingles) is worth the expense; the first bids were rejected because of the cost, and the second bids came in higher than the first, with the lowest bid at $95,000. Mr. Rambo explained that the building is used for storage and as a rest/sleep location for highway department staff during snow plowing events.  In response to a previous suggestion that highway department staff could do the roofing job, Mr. Rambo said he preferred to have the work one by a regular outside vendor. No decision was made.


Northern Westchester Joint Water Works Emergency Project

Mr. Geho and Ms. Paget explained that based on recent inspections a storage tank at the Catskill facility is failing and needs to be replaced by May/June at the latest.  (The tank passed inspection in 1987 and for reasons not known, it was not inspected on a regular basis after that date.)  Mr. Keho estimated that a new tank will cost $1.7-$1.9 million, plus the added cost for demolishing the existing tank and site work.  Depending on the site work cost, the total project could cost between $2.5-$3 million.


Yorktown will be responsible for 49% of the cost.  


Bids are due back later in February and the NWJWW board will have to make a decision at its March meeting in order to move the project forward. The new tank needs to be installed by June in order to accommodate the higher summer usage.  Because by law the NWJWW is not allowed to bond, and the NWJWW fund balance cannot absorb the cost, the component members of the NWJWW will have to make the funds available this year. Cortlandt has already approved a resolution to bond its 35% share and Somers will use its water district fund balance to fund its 6% share. Supervisor Grace put off any discussion of how Yorktown will pay its 49% share, although he did float an idea about some type of loan that was not fully explained.


Note: The board went back into executive session to discuss district personnel issues. The CIY observer left the meeting at this point.