Water contract with Albany costs town

"Back in 2004, there were several different things going on that were different than what's going on now in 2010," said former Town Supervisor Terri Egan, who signed the contract shortly after assuming office. "At the time, we were in a position where the contract needed to be renegotiated, we needed water, the town was reluctant to utilize the Clapper Road plant, we had some constraints from New Salem."

Today, the contract looks less advantageous. It requires the town to buy more water every five years and the rate rises at the same percentage as it does for the city's residential customers. At the time, it was thought tying rates to residential prices would be a good move since the city would assumedly be less eager to raise them. The opposite has turned out to be true.

The result is Bethlehem will pay $1.3 million for Albany water this year, 118 percent more than it did in 2004, and could be paying around $4 million per year by the time the contract expires in 2023.

At a current price of $3.63 per 1,000 gallons, it's the costliest water source for the town.

Having the agreement with Albany does grant Bethlehem a more diverse and larger portfolio of water supply options, though, which was a pivotal part of the decision to sign the new contract, said Egan.

"There were projections being made in regard to the growth of the town ... that would have put a strain on the amount of water that was being produced at the time by our own system," she said. "It looks like it was over projected at the time."

An economic slowdown has resulted in stunted commercial growth and the residential water usage has also declined. Thus, even in high usage times there's not much need for the Albany water.

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