Officials in East Williston and Williston Park have agreed on terms for a new water agreement, ending a decade-old water rate dispute that divided the neighboring villages.
Williston Park provides East Williston with water, currently at a rate of $4.33 per thousand gallons. East Williston has previously claimed that the neighboring village is overcharging, which has led to three lawsuits. East Williston also owes $300,000 in outstanding water penalties for nonpayment.
In a compromise reached Thursday, Williston Park will honor East Williston’s rate of $4.33 until June 2018, and in the case of future increases, retain the current ratio between the rate East Williston is charged and the rate its residents pay. Currently, the resident rate is $5.47 per thousand gallons up to 100,000 gallons, and $5.72 beyond this threshold.
Williston Park residents pay $3.92 per thousand gallons, and then $4.09 beyond 100,000 gallons, Mayor Paul Ehrbar said.
Other terms also include an exclusive 25-year water usage agreement, and a reduction of water penalties to $100,000, payable within a year. Williston Park has also requested a 50-day hold on the pending litigation, which the court has adjourned to Feb. 16, Williston Park village attorney James Bradley said.
East Williston Mayor David Tanner said the next step is to present the terms to residents.
Though previous public meetings, the last of which was more than six months ago, were well-attended, East Williston resident Mike Guglielmo was the sole resident in attendance on Thursday.
“All we do is spend money litigating this and it hurts both villages in a big way,” Guglielmo said. “I think we’d all like to go back in time and have the money we wasted go back into reserve, but we can’t do it.”
Ehrbar said the village would draw up the agreement by its Jan. 4 meeting, in time for East Williston to review at its Jan. 12 meeting. Ideally, it could be signed by February, Ehrbar said.
East Williston trustee Robert Vella said the agreement was historic and would bring the two communities closer.
“We collectively did a historic thing today, this is big. This is a big deal,” Vella said. “We have real people that are affected by this not only because of the water but because two communities have been divided by this. That should not happen.”