After reviving an inactive Water Authority of Southeastern Nassau County, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto have committed $75,000 to finance research and other costs associated with a feasibility study on the takeover of a private water company, Aqua New York, Inc.
The overriding determinant in this takeover study is whether water rate cost savings can be realized under a public takeover of this private water company, according to officials for both towns and water authority officials.
Hempstead Town has committed $50,000 to the Water Authority; Oyster Bay Town provided $25,000. This money is in addition to $10,000 from Hempstead and $5,000 from Oyster Bay granted to the Water Authority in late 2010 to help the group begin preliminary studies.
“Aqua customers pay water rates that far exceed those paid by residents served by public water authorities,” said Murray. “Supervisor Venditto and I are confident that this $75,000 will help the Water Authority study the feasibility of a public takeover of Aqua and determine whether or not our residents would see measurable savings.”
“Aqua ratepayers deserve to have the Water Authority take a fresh look at this issue to determine if such an action would yield lower rates for our residents,” said Venditto. “Hempstead and Oyster Bay are proud to fund the Water Authority as it works to determine the most cost effective option for water customers served by Aqua.”
The five-member board of the Water Authority of Southeastern Nassau County, appointed by Hempstead and Oyster Bay Towns, has been tasked with studying the feasibility of a public acquisition of Aqua. The key to the valuation of Aqua’s assets and the assessment of acquisition costs is the determination of whether water customers will see real savings with the Water Authority providing service to those customers currently served by Aqua.
Under the New York Public Authority Law, Hempstead and Oyster Bay Town Boards were authorized to appoint five members to the Water Authority of Southeastern Nassau County (three members appointed by Hempstead and two by Oyster Bay). The Authority, a public benefit corporation, is an independent governmental entity that is not a component unit of either town. Further, the Authority is empowered to commence a takeover of the private water company that serves residents of Southeastern Nassau County.
“Hempstead and Oyster Bay townships are committed to determining if savings would be realized with a public takeover,” said Councilman Gary Hudes. Added Councilwoman Angie Cullin, “We stand with Aqua customers in their quest for reasonable water costs.”
The Water Authority looked at the feasibility of a public takeover in 1997, but the board ultimately voted against it. However, with Aqua water bills increasing by 12 percent over a three-year period, Murray and Venditto decided to reactivate the Water Authority and take a fresh look at the matter. Since that time, the Water Authority has held several community meetings to listen to residents’ concerns, reviewed data and the findings of the 1997 board, set up a website and sought legal counsel.
Residents seeking more information on the Water Authority’s progress can visit the group’s website, www.wasenc.org, for updates and upcoming meetings.
“Working together, Hempstead and Oyster Bay Towns are dedicated to Aqua Water customers and their quest for cost effective drinking water,” Venditto said. Concluded Murray, “When the studies are completed, we will know whether a public takeover is cost effective for residents served by Aqua.”