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East Williston plans referendum before signing water supply deal

East Williston Mayor David Tanner with the three

East Williston Mayor David Tanner with the three dimensional model of the new water system being considered by the village board as an answer to a long dispute over water rates between the village and its water supplier on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, in East Williston. Credit: Howard Schnapp

East Williston and Williston Park have settled on terms for an exclusive water sale agreement, but the deal remains unsigned while East Williston considers building its own multimillion-dollar well system.

East Williston officials say they intend to put a $7.5 million bond resolution out for public referendum so village residents can vote on which water supply option to pursue.

“Most of the board felt that it was too important, too historic, too precedent-setting of a decision to make, that ultimately we thought it was important to have the community buy in either way,” East Williston Mayor David Tanner said this week.

Tanner said that in presenting both options to the community, the board feels its job is complete. He added that the villages “ironed out their differences” over the past three months of negotiation.

Both boards have settled on an exclusive 25-year agreement that would lock in East Williston’s current water rate of $4.33 per thousand gallons for two years. Future rate increases would maintain the existing ratio between East Williston’s rate and Willison Park residents’ rate. The $300,000 in penalties for late payments that East Williston owes will be reduced by one-third.

Williston Park will provide East Williston with emergency chlorination, and East Williston will not double its insurance policy, as originally requested.

Tanner called the agreement “the best option if we’re not going to build a well,” adding that it wouldn’t be fair to bar the community from weighing in on such a “historic” moment.

The proposal calls for two supply wells and a water tank to be built on a two-acre plot in Devlin Field, north of East Williston Avenue.

Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar said there will be no further negotiation and called the referendum “absurd.”

“I’m not happy and my board is not happy with their approach,” Ehrbar said. “We don’t need an agreement to sell them water, we can continue selling them water.”

Ehrbar said his board hoped to sign an agreement which would be a “win-win” for both villages and ensure that future administrations wouldn’t struggle over rate increases.

Tanner said that there was no set date for the referendum, but he hoped it would happen “as soon as possible.”

“If we have a community majority for the well, then there’s the mandate,” Tanner said. “I think this is democracy at its best. . . . We’ve never had opportunity or option to build a well before. In all likelihood we won’t have an option again.”

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