To the Valley News:
Water or not, here we come!
The old gray mare she isn’t what she used to be, and neither is our village of Port Henry or its meetings.
The regular monthly board meeting on Dec. 12 was of great interest to us because “The Review and Decisions on Water Adjustment Requests” was on the agenda. You see, in November we received our water/sewer bill which was over twice the amount we usually pay even though we used the same quantity of water we had used for years. This is a bill of penalties and fines. And this is not for the usage nor is it for late or non-payments. The penalties and fines are for meter readings, actual vs. estimate, and will continue for at least two more cycles. This means at the least, your bill will triple. Our new Water Law #2 was adopted by the village of Port Henry board of trustees on the date of April 27, 2011. It was filed on the date of May 4, 2011. It was changed on the date of Sept. 15, 2011.
The review and make decisions on water adjustments requests were distributed to the board members prior to the meeting. Many requests seemed to be denied with an occasional approval. One person wrote that he does not read the paper (in regards to the New Water Law #2 publication). And a chorus of voices rang out, “should have read the paper.” Then l heard the nays. The board denied the request, seemingly, without consideration of this citizen’s possible situation. This could be a senior citizen, a disabled person or may have glaucoma. In my opinion, this lack of concern and disregard is very hurtful in many ways.
This lack of concern and disregard of the board has affected me, personally. After paying our June bill, in full and a week early at our village hall, I was just about out the door when I noted my circle and question mark for the water portion reminding me to ask about it. I inquired about it because it seemed like an odd amount. No one behind the counter could explain it either. Just that it was an estimate. They agreed to look into this and we would talk later as I had to leave for an appointment. I had included this particular bill in my Water Adjustment Request letter to the board regarding the estimate status.
During the review at the meeting, the board harped on me because l did not follow up on the questionable water fee. Demanding, “Why didn’t you follow up?” After some thought, l answered, l forgot. She quickly burst out, “it’s your responsibility to follow up.” The board and others filled the room with murmurs. When I returned home, humiliated and exhausted, l looked at my calendar at the month of June. It indicated that I had been ill and in the hospitalized at Fletcher Allan six months ago during the following week of June 8, 2012.
Most citizens had promptly requested in writing, a response regarding estimated water readings. While under review the voices again rang out, “Two in a row.”This as I read to myself, the Water Law #2 of 2011, which places a $100 fee to each metered account if no actual reading is obtained or provided, and the prior two billings were estimated. Also the account will be billed $257 and the ”no meter reading rate will continue until there are two consecutive actual readings.” The chorus went on and on, “Two in a row. You should read the paper. You should read the law.” " I shook my head no, it is and the prior two, not two in a row. Nays filled the room.
When it was my turn, I was about to speak as I heard a voice coming from across the room. He was sitting with his back to us and facing the wall. It was our village water/sewer superintendent. He spoke of my husband with great disrespect and innuendos until a board member pointed out that I was there.
As the board meeting progressed, members and others continued in a frenzy of voices, some smiling and even laughing, “Two in a row, read the paper, read the law.” I then started reading my request letter out loud until the room was quiet. Then I showed them that I had the latest law, Sept. 15, 2011, and pointed out that it stated, “and the prior two billings were estimated, not or. This is the latest change of the Village Water Law #2.” They insisted that I read the law. I didn’t have a copy. They gave me one from the office dated May 4, 2011. I then told them that mine is the latest where the water law was changed. lt states the latest changes. The room was so noisy with negative opinions; l didn’t even hear the board vote or the decision and asked them to repeat it. The mayor stated that it was denied.
Now I look back to the day we delivered our letter to the village office, requesting an adjustment to our bill regarding the estimate readings. The village sent an employee the very next day to read both meters. He said the inside meter was fine. He told us that our outside meter read error. Why didn’t the village send a technician then? Why didn’t they fix it? It was their responsibility.
The following day after the board of trustees meeting, the village promptly sent out a technician. And he promptly fixed a loose wire. lt took perhaps two minutes. He knew exactly where to look and what to do. He was invited into the garage regarding our other meter. He kindly declined saying it is not necessary, I know it works.
Why didn’t the village call the technician with the first error reading? Or the second error reading which they called us for an actual reading from the inside meter. And the third reading was an error as well. Three in a row! Why didn’t the village contact their technician? Why wasn’t it fixed it? lt is the village’s responsibility. Does the village not take their responsibility seriously?
Now, looking back through to the year of 2007, all our meter readings have been actual except for the recent three. Since the village installed the digital meter and since the village of Port Henry, 2011 Water Law #2 was adopted, and changed.
We still worry about the old gray mare. She isn’t what she used to be, and neither is our village of Port Henry. Perhaps there are many other citizens of our village affected by this water law. We welcome your ideas and thoughts. Let us solve this together and make it right.
We would like to close this letter with kudos to our village of Port Henry Fire Department for your dedication to our village. Your total man hours: 3,483.12 for 2012 is real dedication. Also, congratulations to your young new Firefighters.
Janet Billingsley Hansen & Erik Hansen, Port Henry