Three approvals highlighted the Larchmont Village Board meeting Monday night: a 35% increase in water bills, a bond for capital improvements of the Village Center behind the Larchmont Library, and an agreement with the Town of Mamaroneck for tax exemption of Village owned property located in the Town near the reservoir.
Water Bills To Rise Significantly
Why? As explained by Village Treasurer Denis Brucciani, Larchmont has not increased water rates in the last three years, even though the municipality’s costs have risen. New York City, which supplies the water, has increased its rates. In addition, Larchmont has incurred increases in both administrative costs and debt service associated with repairs to the water main that runs across the Chatsworth Avenue bridge over the Thruway.
For all these reasons, the water fund is in danger of running into deficit if rates don’t rise to cover costs.
Two Charges? The board approved a hike in residents’ water bills which will come in two forms.
The first is a new administrative service fee that is based on the size of each meter and is not related to how much water is used. This fee will cover the cost of delivering water to the customer and will be assessed semi-annually.
“This administrative charge is common in other jurisdictions,” said Mr. Brucciani, “and will modestly reduce the variability of the revenues during low volume periods.” Most homes have meters whose size is 5/8 inch to 3/4 inch and will be assessed a $65 fee. However, larger meters will cost more.
The second is a blended rate increase of 35% for the water used. New York City charges a higher rate in periods when usage exceeds a set level. The blended rate results from averaging the cost of water in high use months and low use months.
When? The two increases will not be imposed until the next billing cycle, which runs from October 31 to April 30 and will not impact this summer’s high use period.
Compared to What? “The Village of Mamaroneck recently increased their water rates by 75% so this is happening all around us,” Trustee Marlene Kolbert reminded the board.
Not All on Board? Trustee Richard Ward cast the only dissenting vote on the rate increase. He argued for putting off the vote to allow for more time to study the fee structure.
“I feel concern that the low volume users are subsidizing the high volume users,” he said. “Perhaps some sort of a manual override could go on the meters so that people pay a surcharge for high volume use.”
Mayor Josh Mandell said that with summer schedules making it uncertain that the board could vote on the issue next month, it was urgent to vote immediately to ensure the Village would receive the revenue it needed to cover its costs.
“I feel bad to be presiding over a 35% increase in water rates,” said the mayor “It would have been much more sufferable to have a 10 – 15% water rate increase every year rather than coming every few years and hitting residents with a 35% increase. I pledge that going forward we’re going to be doing a better job of passing on those costs on a timely basis.” He added, “I think we need to be forward looking and develop a longer range plan for how we monitor and evaluate water usage.”
Leaks and New Meters? In response to questions from Trustee Ann McAndrews, Mr. Brucciani said that most of the leaks in the system that were identified a few years ago have been dealt with and that the Water Department has been alerted to the importance of finding and closing off future leaks.
Further , he said, with the help of Larchmont resident Michael Gottfried, he has developed a proposal for new water meters that has just been submitted to the mayor and will soon go out for bids for purchase. With the new meters, the Village can convert to an automated system which should save time and increase revenues, according to Mr. Brucciani, “But it will cost some money to do this,” he acknowledged.
$300K More for Village Center
The board also approved borrowing $300,000 for repairs and upgrades to the Village Center, which is on the first floor of the building that houses the Larchmont Library Children’s Room. This is in addition to the $450,000 the board approved earlier as part of the overall renovation.
When construction at the Children’s Room required opening up and reinforcing some walls at the Village Center, it became clear that additional work was needed.
Trustee Marlene Kolbert pointed out, “The result will be some energy savings, and the community will benefit from a renewed Village Center.”
No Taxes On Property Owned by Larchmont
The mayor thanked Trustee Jaine Elkind Eney for her presentation to the Town of Mamaroneck Board which resulted in a new agreement that will save Larchmont from paying taxes on property it owns in Mamaroneck Town on Byron Place near the Larchmont Reservoir.
The agreement provides a complete exemption from taxes for ten years and renews automatically in successive 10-year periods unless it is no longer entitled to be exempt under state law. Larchmont’s board approved the agreement, and it will now go back to Mamaroneck for a final approval.
Michael Gottfried has been researching the law on this matter, pro bono, for a number of years in consultation with Village Attorney James Staudt, He turned over a memo on his work to Ms. Eney, who used it as the basis for her presentation.
ALSO AT THE BOARD: Promotions, Kudos, Vandalism & More
Promo: Tony Martyn was promoted to Larchmont Fire Department Lieutenant before a large crowd of family, friends, and firefighters. Lieutenant Martyn joined the department in 1989 as a professional firefighter, but his service goes back to 1980 when he began volunteering as an Explorer.
“Tony is a kind and good man who not only does a great job as a fire fighter,” said Mayor Josh Mandell, “but he also understands what it means to be a leader and a manager, which is not so easy to do in tough times. He’ll be stepping up to a management role now, one for which he is uniquely qualified.”
Award: Larchmont’s Committee on the Environment, chaired by Trustee Marlene Kolbert, was recognized by the Local Governments for Sustainability organization for completing the second of five milestones of climate mitigation. The Committee has set emission reduction targets and is on its way to completing the entire 5-step process.
Vandals: There are no longer any benches in front of Constitution Park adjacent to Village Hall. The benches, donated by Larchmont’s former mayor, Miriam Curnin, and her husband, Tom Curnin, have been so badly damaged they had to be removed. Anyone with information regarding what Trustee Kolbert sadly described as “this deplorable action” is asked to contact the board.
Overnight Campout a Hit at Flint Park
On July 16, over 40 campers and their families participated in the Recreation Committee’s first overnight camp out in Flint Park. By all accounts the event was a success. “We will definitely look into doing this again next year,” said Mayor Mandell. He thanked Longford’s for delivering free survival ice cream to the group that evening.
On the Calendar:
Wednesday, August 4 at 6:15 pm: League of Women Voters is showing the film Gasland on pros and cons of hydraulic fracking at the Harrison Public Library. A discussion will follow
Thursday, September 9 - Saturday, September 11: Sidewalk Sale Days for stores in Larchmont
Thursday, Sept 30: Larchmont Library evening program with Allen Schwartz, NY Times reporter at Grant conference room in Larchmont Temple
Saturday, October 2 at 10 am: is Big Trucks Day; from 1-5 pm is Larchmont Arts Festival in Constitution Park (Information and registration forms at www.villageoflarchmont.org
Sunday, October 3: New Rochelle Humane Society and Pet Rescue of Larchmont present Hounds on the Sound Dog Walk and Festival. See: www.houndsonthesound.com
Sunday, October 10 at 12:30: Bike “Tour de Larchmont” — 4 mile bike ride through the Manor begins in Flint Park with bike decorating