Roosevelt council concerned about high water/sewer rates

Guest Column • Jeff Ellentuck

Iwish to correct some errors in the Examiner’s July 2 and later articles concerning the Roosevelt water tower.

In view of the importance of the borough infrastructure to Roosevelt residents, it is important for them to understand the correct facts.

The Examiner quoted me as saying that “total engineering fees for the project would be about $170,000, but the state would pick up 25 percent of those fees.” I actually said that the state would pay 25 percent of the project cost, which means they will pay $135,000 in engineering fees.You are correct that our borough engineer initially told the Borough Council that the cost of replacing the borough water tank would be between $450,000 and $900,000. However, the documentation submitted by the borough engineer to the state contained an estimate of approximately $1.3 million to replace the water tank. None of the estimates included the cost of any land that might have to be acquired for the project or the cost of providing water during the changeover to a new tank.

In any event, neither the engineer nor the state could guarantee that the replacement cost would not exceed the estimates.

The final $565,000 bonding not only covers the repair of the water tower, it also includes repairs to our water treatment plant. These mandated water treatment repairs were not included in any prior cost estimates.

As your reporter noted, the public discussions concerning the water tower and water system have been ongoing since 2006. During that time, there have been numerous discussions, council presentations, engineering studies and presentations, cost analyses, PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheet reports regarding the relative project costs and benefits and the cost to residents of the various proposals.

In addition, the Borough Council has unanimously passed numerous resolutions and ordinances in connection with the project and the financing during the past two years.

The Water and Sewer Committee of the Borough Council originally requested replacement of our water tower and numerous repairs to our water system. Filings with the state estimated these repairs at approximately $3.5 million. In addition, the Water and Sewer Committee, borough employees and the state engineers requested repairs to the water plant (in addition to the initial $3.5 million that are estimated to cost in excess of $500,000 alone and were not included in their original request.)

Councilwoman Arlene Stinson was engaging in understatement when she said that $565,000 is the “bottom” of what the approved project will cost. Even assuming that this particular government project comes in on time and under budget, the Water and Sewer Committee has requested hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of additional repairs and improvements to the water plant for which there is no provision in the current financing.

No one who is involved in this project who has regularly attended council meetings or who has participated in public discussions and presentations can seriously doubt that the cost of the proposed infrastructure

repair and improvements far exceeds the funds that will be available, even if we do manage to complete the current project under budget.

In short, the Water and Sewer Committee proposed $1.3 million plus in water tower replacement costs and $500,000 plus in water plant repairs. That amount was reduced to $565,000 by the full council at an effective interest rate of between 1 percent and 1.5 percent. The life of our water tower will be extended for approximately 15-20 years, and for much longer if properly maintained, and our water plant has been brought into compliance with basic homeland security requirements.

There is no basis to assert that we may have less than $565,000 of work to be done, especially when the Water and Sewer Committee and employees requested $4 million. Likewise, no one who has attended the public presentations and discussions or made even a cursory review of the voluminous engineering and financial data provided to the council and the public can reasonably assert that council is not deeply concerned about the incredibly high cost of our water and sewer services.

Jeff Ellentuck is a Roosevelt councilman.