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East Williston mulls own well despite tentative water deal

East Williston and Williston Park are still negotiating terms for an exclusive long-term water agreement, but East Williston’s past explorations of building its own well have now resurfaced.

East Williston officials previously called the tentative agreement announced on Dec. 17 “historic” and “concrete,” but at a recent public meeting, they surprised residents by declaring that the well proposal was essential for a balanced negotiation and that the village would pursue both “parallel options.”

“It’s like a marriage,” said East Williston Mayor David Tanner. “If we’re going to enter into a long-term agreement with Williston Park, which is currently being considered, we need to go in with our eyes open.”

The well proposal was first floated in November 2014, when the village commissioned a report outlining prospective costs and design. Engineers presented updates on Tuesday for the $7.5 million project to construct two supply wells and a water tank on a two-acre plot in Devlin Field, north of East Williston Avenue.

The project would be paid for with a 35-year bond. Under average water use projections, East Williston residents would pay $5.66 per thousand gallons. More than half of this amount would be fixed to pay bond debt. Assuming a 30 percent income tax, the cost could fall to $4.76, accountant Frank Faber said. East Williston residents currently pay $5.47 per thousand gallons.

East Williston Trustee Robert Vella said the fixed cost ensures greater financial stability than the three-year rate freeze offered by Williston Park, which could be followed by increases.

Village officials also shared the terms drafted by Williston Park in early January, which they said included several surprising and “concerning” details not discussed in December.

East Williston village attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff said the agreement includes a minimum annual water usage of 99 million gallons and an opt-out clause where Williston Park could give a year’s notice before halting services. East Williston is being asked to indemnify potential costs or damages for bodily injuries.

Tanner said the board has yet to reach out to Williston Park but “intends to move forward” on both water supply options.

“There’s no mystery, we’re serious about negotiating,” Tanner said. “If [Williston Park] were in the same situation, they’d proceed the same way.”

Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar said the well proposal wasn’t discussed at the December meeting of both boards, but that it was “nothing new.”

“They’re doing what they feel they have to do, and we’re doing what we feel we have to do,” Ehrbar said, adding that he is optimistic an agreement could be signed by mid-February.

The East Williston trustees unanimously adopted a declaration stating that the well project would not have any negative environmental impacts and also established the village as the lead agency on the proposal.

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