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Bethlehem to consolidate water users

The Town of Bethlehem will be adding 543 parcels to its Water District No. 1, effectively placing all the town's water customers under the same umbrella.

The Town Board unanimously approved the district expansion Wednesday, March 24. Applications will not be submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which will likely to several months to review the action.

Department of Public Works Commissioner Josh Cansler explained how the town has been unable to extend the district to a handful of parcels around town, such as during times of drought when a state restriction was imposed on additions.

To be honest, the town kind of fell behind on extending the district to all the water users we have over the last 15, 20 years, Cansler said.

Despite a DEC moratorium on district additions, the town extended water service to many parcels, making them customers existing outside of the water district. Such customers do not pay a water department tax, but pay double the base rate for water used.

This generally works out to a higher water bill. Cansler said the owner of a $300,000 house using 65,000 gallons of water a year would have an annual bill of $537 outside the district, about $84 more than the same user inside the district.

The change will work in favor for 90 to 95 percent of the parcels being added, he continued.

That will take a small bite out of the water department's revenues, which has already been compensated for, Cansler said.

The Town Board praised the expansion on the grounds water customers will be receiving the same treatment. Councilman Mark Hennessey said he's glad the town can provide services to taxpayers, "not by raising taxes, but by tightening our belts."

The expansion will also bring the 23-parcel South Albany Water District into Water District No. 1. Customers in New Scotland will be unaffected by the change, as the Town of Bethlehem does not have the power to impose taxes on those users.

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