Water Dispute Ends In Agreement

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The Villages of East Williston and Williston Park have both agreed to the terms of a 25-year water service contract, where Williston Park will continue supplying East Williston with water—effectively ending a five-year legal dispute between the two villages.

Both village boards met in March, where they established the principles behind a long-term agreement, and have had been going through legal finalizations since then.

The Williston Park (left) and East Williston board of trustees finalized a water agreement last week.
The Williston Park (left) and East Williston board of trustees finalized a water agreement last week.

On May 23, the East Williston board voted 4-1 to accept the agreement pursuant to revisions made by the Nassau County Department of Health, where Mayor David Tanner was the only “no” vote.

At the meeting, Tanner qualified that the agreement with Williston Park is “not a good agreement, but the best the villages can get.”

The village board also voted 3-2 against a resolution to put their then-proposed $7.5 million water well up for public referendum, which would have given them their own water system and the ability to split with Williston Park. Tanner and trustee Christopher Siciliano voted yes, while Deputy Mayor Bonnie Parente and trustees James Iannone and Anthony Casella voted no.

East Williston Village Attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff has noted that the referendum would not have been a vote on whether to go with the water system or the agreement, but on the financing of the well.

At the Williston Park village board meeting last Monday, June 20, their village board voted unanimously to accept the agreement.

Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar said that the two villages will now set forth on signing the contract.

“This is an agreement that we’ve both come to accept, and now it’s time to move forward,” Ehrbar said.

The 25-year agreement states that East Williston will purchase water from Williston Park at the current rate of $4.33 per thousand gallons —which is locked until June 2018. Future increases would be kept along the same ratio of East Williston’s rate to the residential rate in Williston Park, and East Williston has the ability to voice their position before a public hearing would be held on such increases.

Williston Park has sought after East Williston to pay approximately $500,000 in outstanding water penalties for non-payments, and as per the agreement, East Williston will pay $100,000.

At the East Williston village board meeting on June 13, Casella noted that the $100,000 will terminate all litigations, and will be paid up front rather than waiting until Jan. 1, 2017.

“It will completely cover all the issues and we’ll be able to move on. I applaud Mayor Tanner for suggesting that,” Casella said.

Also per the agreement, both villages will be maintaining their own water infrastructure and Williston Park has the ability to raise water rates to fund infrastructure costs of their own.

Williston Park will also continue chlorinating East Williston’s water and provide emergency chlorination as well.

On June 20, Williston Park Attorney James Bradley read off the changes made to the agreement since March, being that Nassau County required Williston Park to comply with directives from the New York State Department of Health, which he remarked was already by implication in the agreement.

Another change was in regards to emergency chlorination of water, where the obligation by Williston Park would be limited to the regulations on the amount of chlorination put into the system.

Casella, who was recently re-elected this year to the village board following his tenure as mayor from 1977 to 1995, has been opposed to East Williston constructing its own water well since it was first presented to the public in 2014. He replaced trustee Robert Vella, who chose not to seek re-election.

“We have been getting good water from Williston Park for 46 years, and that speaks volumes,” Casella said.

Tanner favored constructing the well, and stated that it is a legacy issue that is owed to the village residents.

“I felt this water issue was far too big not allow residents to voice their opinion through a public vote—the well would have also provided a way to control water quality and price,” said Tanner, who also expressed concern about a water rate increase from Williston Park following the “lock down” period in the agreement.

Iannone, who came into the process towards the end as he was elected to the East Williston village board in 2015, recognized Tanner’s points on a rate increase, however stated that East Williston is too small of a village to have its own water well, and that there is no feasible spot for its placement. The well was originally slated for Devlin Field.

Initially supportive of the referendum at the joint-board meeting in March, Iannone said in May that he felt a public vote could possibly jeopardize the negotiations with Williston Park. He also complimented the other members of the village board for their time put into the negotiations.

Siciliano said he wanted the contract with Williston Park signed, however felt that the residents should have been able to voice their opinion by voting. He also noted that former trustee Vella’s contributions and work during the lengthy negotiation periods should not go unnoticed.

Vella also supported the well to be put up for public referendum, and was heavily involved in the negotiations with Williston Park.

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