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Water District Tabled

A water district extension proposed for a portion of Auburn Road and Bower, Buck, Wilson and Colon Roads was tabled Wednesday, after three property owners within the proposed district strongly objected to the project.  A petition signed by 23 neighbors requested removing the portion of Buck Road between Auburn and Conlon Roads.

"Ever since we've owned this property our taxes have gone up, some years more than others," said Lansing farmer Matt Dedrick, some of whose fields are part of the proposed district.  "At this point in time the taxes far exceed what our agricultural land can generate in return.  So adding another $934 a year for 38 years for a water system that we and a number of other neighbors don't want, need, or can't justify at this price tag, would be very burdensome to to many."

Special districts such as water, sewer, and lighting districts are billed on the annual tax bill, but only the properties within those districts pay.  There was some confusion because the proposal is that the Town Highway Department would lay the pipes, and some residents thought that charging district property owners for that labor would, in essence, be a double tax because Highway Department employees are already on the Town payroll, and those wages are already in the budget.

Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne said that is not the case.  he said having the Highway Department do the construction would save homeowners within the district money, and dollars budgeted by the Town for the time employees end up working for the district would not be spent, potentially saving taxpayers money on their next tax bill, or going into reserves for future town construction projects or equipment.

"If the labor is done by the highway department it is paid for by the water district, and not the taxpayers," he said.  "Because the highway department can do it and profit is not involved, the amount of cost per EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit) is less."

Dedrick also said that future projections for his portion of the water district contradict the Town's stated policy of protecting farm land.

"There's a good portion of road frontage on Conlon Road with very few houses to support having this water system in place," he said.  "The Town's protected growth predicts there will be 70 additional units in the next 20 years.  We would really like to know where these houses are going to go since most of the remaining land is actual farm land.  The Town says its here to protect farm land, and keep it from development.  This is an encroachment to the north."

LaVigne took exception to accusations of misleading the neighbors, noting that neighbors had been invited to two informational sessions so far.  On the grounds that Town Engineer David Herrick had just submitted updated information that Town Attorney Guy Krogh hadn't had a chance to review, LaVigne recommended tabling the Town Board vote on whether or not to create the district.  Such a vote would trigger a permissive referendum period, a period of time during which neighbors could petition for a vote among proposed district landowners on whether or not to build the water district extension.

He said the water district extension was a result of some neighbors contacting the Town to say they wanted or needed municipal water, and that he and other town officials were simply following the process outlined by state law.  He said he had no agenda relative to the proposal, and said the neighbors themselves could determine through a vote whether or not to go forward with the project.

"I have followed the process according to our engineer and our attorney," he said.  "Anything less than that is a misrepresentation of me, and I take exception to that.  if it comes to a vote you decide what is going to happen to that proposed district.  We'll try to come up with some other scenarios and see what we can come up with."

LaVigne recommended tabling the vote until the November Town Board meeting. He said that would give officials a chance to recalculate costs for individual property owners based on excluding a portion of the current boundary.

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