Water contract with Albany costs town

$500 K of Bethlehem money goes down the drain every year

A developing discussion on the future of the Town of Bethlehem's water supply is also shedding light on the present and, in a year officials are looking at cutting services, exposing the fact hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are going down the drain every year.

The culprit is the town's contract to buy water from the City of Albany. Signed in 2004 and running through 2023, it obligates the town to receive or pay for an ever-increasing amount of water from the Albany Water Board at a rate that has soared above what it costs the town to produce its own water.

The reality is since we've signed it, we haven't really needed the water, Commissioner of Public Works Josh Cansler said. "We spend about $500,000 per year we don't need to spend buying Albany water."

This frank analysis has Town Board members " who will probably have to approve new fees and cut services to balance a 2011 budget " taking a hard line against the agreement.

"It is the worst structured contract I have ever seen in my life. Period," Councilman Mark Hennessey said. "We have no control."

"The 2004 water contract with Albany has turned out to be a Titanic mistake, helping to further sink our budget and forcing us to make decisions we otherwise might not need to make right now, all for water our DPW commissioner said we do not need," Councilman Kyle Kotary said.

None of the members of the Town Board were in office when the contract was signed. It was brokered on the heels of a massive drought in 2002 that saddled residents with an entire summer of water use restrictions. This, along with other factors like the assumption the demand for water would continue to increase and an existing contract was near expiration, brought town officials to the bargaining table with the Albany Water Board.

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