Village water fight rages on

The exterior of East Williston Village Hall is The exterior of East Williston Village Hall is pictured on Jan. 7, 2013. The village is drafting plans for a $7 million independent water supply system. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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East Williston has paid Williston Park less than half of a roughly $600,000 water bill, because the mayor says that is what was actually owed.

Last month, a state appellate court denied East Williston's attempt to block a 13 percent hike from $3.83 per thousand gallons to $4.33. While the controversy was in court, East Williston Mayor David Tanner said, the village paid the former rate of $2.99 per thousand gallons and placed the remainder in an escrow account.

Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar said East Williston paid an overdue water bill for $254,330 last week, but "about $300,000" in penalties was missing, as was $61,000 Ehrbar said East Williston alleges was "overpaid" in an earlier lawsuit filed over a rate increase.

At Monday night's meeting of the Williston Park board, Ehrbar said the village would "seek those penalties in any way we can legally. It's no different from anyone else who's late on their bill. Every bill has referenced the penalties."

Tanner said in an interview Tuesday that "the matter has been satisfied. We paid what the court decided we should pay."

In the ruling, the appellate panel said the increase "was rational" and "was not arbitrary and capricious or illegal" as East Williston officials had said. The court did not address the exact amount to be paid or the penalties.

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Tanner had previously described the hikes as "price gouging" and added Tuesday, "Any reasonable person looking at a balance of $254,000 and $300,000 in penalties would consider that excessive. We're finished with the matter. We don't believe those monies are due."

Asked what will happen to the money that remains in escrow, Tanner said, "We're evaluating how to proceed with that."

Ehrbar said he hoped some long-term solution to the water dispute can be worked out between the two villages after the bill is completely paid.

East Williston filed its first lawsuit against Williston Park when in April 2011 the water rate was raised to $3.83 per thousand gallons. The court found Williston Park did not hold a required public hearing to discuss the hike but after holding the proper proceedings in August 2012 Williston Park raised the rate to $4.33, resulting in the second court action.

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