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Town seeks to consolidate water customers

The Town of Bethlehem is aiming to incorporate all municipal water customers in town into one district, a move town officials say should save those being added some money on their water bill.

A public hearing on the extension is scheduled for March 24 at 6 p.m. The proposal calls for 548 properties already receiving water from the town to be incorporated into Water District No. 1.

The separate South Albany Water District is included in the proposal. There are over 11,000 water customers in the Town of Bethlehem.

Commissioner of Public Works Josh Cansler said in the past there have been moratoriums on district expansions, such as in time of drought, that have precluded the town from adding customers into the district.

This will put everyone in the town receiving water on the same sheet of music, he said. "These people are receiving the same water as everyone in the district, they just happen to be outside the district."

Those who buy public water but are not in the district do not pay a property tax to the water budget, but must pay double the standard rate for the water they use. Paying twice as much in fees generally ends up being more than paying the tax, and in some developments there can be small pockets of homes not in the district.

"There are quite a few people who call on a regular basis and ask, why is my water rate double my neighbor's?" Cansler said. "The customers will be better off."

Cansler estimated that the change would have a $150,000 impact on the department's revenue, less than 1 percent of the budget. Cuts elsewhere in the department will make up the difference, he said.

Members of the Town Board"who on Wednesday, Feb. 24, unanimously approved the scheduling of the public hearing and issued a negative declaration of environmental impact"suggested that flyers be sent out with the next water bill to those affected by the change, if it is approved.

Information on the properties involved in the consolidation is on file at the Town Clerk's office.

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