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Villages set to sign contract ending water rate dispute

Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar at the Williston

Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar at the Williston Park water facility with a water storage tank behind him, January 5, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

A decade-old water rate dispute between the villages of East Williston and Williston Park is nearing an end, with a contract close to signing, after a call for a public referendum to build a well was abandoned.

Negotiations establishing an exclusive long-term agreement for the sale of water from Williston Park to East Williston concluded more than three months ago, and a final contract is set to be signed by the end of the month, village officials confirmed.

East Williston’s village board previously announced intentions to follow “two parallel paths” by also putting a $7.5 million proposal to build its own well out for public referendum, a move that was struck down in a 3-2 vote at a recent board meeting.

“The only real way to get a full airing would have been to have a public referendum,” said East Williston Mayor David Tanner, who voted for such a measure. “We never really will know what the majority would have wanted without a vote.”

Tanner was the only board member to vote in favor of a well, and was the sole no-vote against approving the final contract with Williston Park. Williston Park’s board of trustees will discuss the contract, with minor edits by the Nassau County Department of Health, at a 6:30 p.m. board meeting on Monday. The goal is to sign within the next few weeks, said Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar.

The contract sets forth a 25-year agreement locking 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 the rate paid by Williston Park residents.

Under the agreement, water penalties in late payments owed by East Williston would be reduced from $300,000 to $100,000, which the village would pay upfront upon signing. Williston Park will provide East Williston with emergency chlorination that meets state and county standards.

Village officials from both sides previously heralded the agreement as “historic” and “concrete,” but according to Tanner, a public referendum would have been the “most democratic way to conduct things.”

“At the end of the day there is closure, or some closure,” Tanner said. “I wouldn’t say absolute closure because we never had the vote.”

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