ALTAMONT: Family's water running again

After almost three years of unpaid water and sewer bills, an Altamont family will return home, complete with running water and one less worry, following an agreement by a local charity to pay the overdue utility fees.

The seven-member Fisher family of Gun Club Road left their home in November after the village approved a resolution to turn off their running water in what the mayor called a last resort following months of negotiations over the overdue bills.

From the beginning, the board and I have been deeply concerned about the family and have, we believe, made extraordinary efforts to resolve the situation. Unfortunately, after well over two years, it came time to take the steps to turn off the water to the residence. We believe we did the right thing, after spending considerable time in discussion and negotiation over the years to address the overdue bills, said Mayor James Gaughan.

Some residents criticized the village board's decision, but Gaughan said the decision came after years of trying to resolve the situation without having to resort to cutting off the family's water supply.

Gaughan said that if a similar situation occured within the village, the board could add unpaid water bills to taxes. However, because Gun Club Road is outside of the village, they do not legally have this option. Gaughan said he felt an obligation to the village and its taxpayers to take action to collect the close to $7,000 in unpaid water and sewer bills.

According to a letter dated June 8, the Helderberg Community Interfaith Safe Haven organization has agreed to pay the debt by June 22 on behalf of homeowner Alice Fisher and her family.

"The reactivation of their water supply is the key to the beginning of solving, or at least alleviating, the overall situation. This will give the family hope for the future," said Richard Umholz of Safe Haven.

A letter drafted by Gaughan was sent to the Albany County Department of Health informing them that Safe Haven will pay the water bill and that the family will be able to return home.

The letter also states that Safe Haven will be implementing a plan to keep the Fishers on track with future water bills.

"In the end, we felt that the village residents would understand that we spent considerable time to resolve the situation, and needed to make the tough decision so that we were no longer able to provide village water for free," said Gaughan.""

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