CATSKILL — Village residents can expect higher water bills in the coming months to pay for system improvements, officials said.
The board of trustees passed a resolution in February authorizing a $250,000 bond to replace a filtration unit in the water plant, purchase new water meters for residences and install new billing software.
The bond will be repaid in quarterly payments of $15,000 for five years, village officials said.
To accommodate the debt service, the village will raise water rates by 10% in the third quarter, Village President Vincent Seeley said.
“[The increase] will be reflected in the October bill,” Seeley said. “The rate increase is primarily due to our efforts to maintain current operations, invest in water quality infrastructure and improve operations by purchasing new billing software.”
Investing in the village’s water supply is a priority, Seeley said.
“We realize that cost-effective, quality drinking water is one of the keys to creating a better place to live and visit. We are aggressively applying for several water infrastructure grants that will aid us in future improvements and rate stabilization efforts.”
Village residents and business owners reacted to the news Thursday.
Kristi Gibson, a village resident and owner of Magpie Bookshop, thinks the increase would have little impact on her.
“I try to conserve as much water as possible,” Gibson said, adding that her bills are typically quite low.
Village resident Roz Viemeister, owner of Shoofly, thinks the raise was necessary.
“Nobody likes to have the rates be raised but if it means fixing the old infrastructure, than so be it,” she said. “That’s what taxes are for — betterment of the community.”
The village also sees the opportunity for growth, Seeley said.
“We are in very good shape with about a 50% safe yield,” he said. “In other words, we could expand our usage by 30% to 40% without any major capital investment. For us, water is a commodity and can be offered at a cost to other municipalities.”
The village Department of Public Works has begun working on the upgrades, DPW Superintendent Michael McGrath said.
“The filtration unit should be on and running by the end of next week,” he said.
The filter was 20 years old and cost about $90,000 to replace because it cracked, McGrath said.
There are two other filters in the plant.
DPW crews will work on replacing the 13-year-old water meters throughout the course of the summer, McGrath said.
“You can radio-read them from the trucks so you don’t have to go in people’s homes,” McGrath said of the new meters.
The upgrade is more efficient in terms of manpower, he said.
“Before, if you got half the houses done you were lucky,” McGrath said. “Now you need one guy out there instead of five and you can do it all in one day instead of a week.”
The village has to replace about 1,000 meters, McGrath said.
Master Meter, the company that handles the village’s meter system, will install the new billing software in three weeks, McGrath said.
“We had to wait for the last billing cycle to end,” he said.
Residents will now have the option to pay their bills online.
The village has had ongoing issues with water-main breaks and discoloration due to aging infrastructure and weather conditions.
Seeley wants to start replacing sections of the 120-year-old water main in the 2019 capital plan, he said.
The village does not have figures drawn up yet for the capital plan.