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Water agency deal hinges on upgrade cost

The Bethpage water tower. (April 30, 2012)

The Bethpage water tower. (April 30, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Farmingdale will seek estimates on the cost of upgrading its water infrastructure to better inform a decision on whether Bethpage Water District or Suffolk County Water Authority would best serve the village, Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said.

Knowing the price of upgrading three wells and refurbishing the water tower and the in-ground tank on Ridge Road should make it easier to choose, Ekstrand said last week.

An analysis completed in March by an independent utilities consultant found SCWA would be the more cost-effective for Farmingdale customers -- both residential and commercial -- if capital expenditures exceeded $5.2 million.

"If we put them [the upgrades] out to bid and it comes in at $6 million, then Suffolk County water is looking pretty good," Ekstrand said. "If the bids all come in and it's $4.1 million, then maybe Bethpage deserves a little more looking at."

Suffolk in its contract would cover the cost of capital improvements. Bethpage would require that the village use bonds. Neither will participate in the bidding.

Bethpage is gathering additional information requested by Farmingdale and will send its final proposal soon, its superintendent, Michael Boufis, said Monday.

Contracting with Suffolk -- and becoming the first Nassau municipality to do so -- would require enabling legislation from Albany.

Ekstrand said the village trustees at their May 7 meeting are to consider a resolution to pursue "a home rule message" and have it ready in case SCWA is chosen.

"The home rule message is requesting the state of New York to expand the service territory of Suffolk County Water Authority to include the Village of Farmingdale," he said.

SCWA chief executive Jeff Szabo said in a statement Monday that the water authority "will be ready to provide our pure and safe drinking water to Farmingdale residents if the village is successful in effecting the needed state statutory changes."

Ekstrand's predecessor, George Starkie, had been in talks with SCWA for more than two years. Ekstrand, who was elected in March, said the village would continue to be deliberate.

"We're rounding the curve and coming to the finish line to decide what we're going to do," he said. It is "a massive decision -- a 40-year deal is going to span two generations -- so we just want to get it right."

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