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Cairo negotiating to backup well for 2nd water source

March 13, 2018 11:33 pm

CAIRO — The Cairo Town Board is negotiating to buy private land with multiple water wells that could serve as a backup to the district’s only water supply.

Three town board members met privately with landowners Steve and Julie Freemann during a special meeting Monday night to discuss details and negotiate a selling price on the land and buildings.

The 12-acre property at 665 Main St. was a resort built in 1956, according to Greene County property records. The Freemanns bought the Main Street property in 2013 for $115,000.

The Freemanns purchased the property under the name Just Pull Inn LLC, Town Supervisor Daniel Benoit said Tuesday.

If the sale goes through, the town plans to use the buildings as a new community center, Councilwoman Mary-Jo Cords said.

“We have a community center in Acra that’s old and rundown,” Cords said. “There are multiple reasons why we’re considering the property.”

The Freemanns planned to open a thrift store in the old hotel, Julie Freemann said Tuesday.

“We’ve put blood, sweat and tears into the place,” she said.

Negotiations between the town and the Freemanns are taking place behind closed doors to prevent additional influence over the price, Benoit said. The property’s full-market value was assessed at $308,971 as of 2017, according to property records.

The property’s two or three wells are the most valuable assets for the town, Benoit said. Based on preliminary water tests, the wells could serve as a secondary water source for the town’s water district, which covers most of the downtown area.

One 20-foot-deep caisson well in Angelo Canna Town Park supplies water to the Cairo water district, and pumps about 140,000 gallons per day.

“It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not that much,” Town Councilman Jason Watts said. “If every building in town was occupied, it wouldn’t be enough.”

If something happens to the town park well, which is about 20 feet from the Shingle Kill Creek, the town doesn’t have a backup source of water for the district.

Finding a secondary water source is only one piece of a larger water infrastructure puzzle in Cairo, which includes replacing leaking pipes, aging water meters and a water tower that’s 10 years past its expiration date.

“Our engineer told us you can expect catastrophic failure at any moment,” Benoit said.

The town received a combination loan and grant of $3.6 million in 2016 to finance the water infrastructure upgrade from the state’s Environmental Facility Corporation, with $2.4 million issued as a grant, Benoit said. The loan money has to be spent first, he said.

Previous water monitoring tests have shown the larger well on the Freemanns’ property can be pumped at 55 to 57 gallons per minute for eight hours without dropping the level in the other wells, Benoit said.

“But that’s not enough,” he said. “We have to do a 72- or 120-hour test.”

For the Freemanns, the property evaluation has dragged on too long.

“It’s been like this for two years,” Julie said. “They’ve been drilling and testing more water, when they know that they’ve got more than they need.

“We’d like to see things happen with the town, but how long are we going to wait around?” she said, adding they’ve received offers from non-profit organizations that wouldn’t be paying taxes.

Town board members still have questions that need to be answered before making a final offer, Benoit said, including how much grant or loan money the town is authorized to use for the purchase, the value of the Freemanns’ wells and if the wells have enough capacity to accommodate the water district.

“If we find that the well doesn’t work in a 72-hour drawdown test, we’ll have to look elsewhere,” Benoit said.

Benoit said he hopes the additional water tests can be completed in a month or two, but it’s unclear whether the town will have to open the project to another bid.

WATER METER INSTALLATION

The town had to restart the process of installing new water meters in August because a legal notice was not published in the town’s official newspaper.

Initial bidding from the town’s engineering company, Delaware Engineering, began last June.

“We didn’t follow the proper legal procedures,” Benoit said in August. “We had to throw the bids out and start over.”

Residents should see new water main installations beginning this week, Benoit said. The meters, which cost between $135,000 and $150,000 total, are expected to provide more accurate readings.

“Based on the amount pumped out of the well and the amount captured by meters in homes and businesses, we are missing about 40 percent of our water [through leaks and false meter readings],” Benoit said.

“Some homes don’t even have meters right now,” Cords said. “Those people get charged the minimum. We’ll get a much better picture now.”

As water infrastructure improves, residents can expect a bump in water rates.

“In the long run, we have to raise water rates to pay for the financing on this loan,” Benoit said, adding the town’s options are implementing an Equivalency Dosage Unit program, which is a fixed price per unit, or by raising water rates.

To reach reporter Carly Miller, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2499, email cmiller@thedailymail.net.