PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- The cost of paying for fire hydrant maintenance in Port Chester is being shifted slightly from the taxpayers to those who pay for water bills.
Maintenance on village fire hydrants and their associated infrastructure has previously been paid for by the village, at a cost of around $230,000 per year. Under a new state law that was passed this year, the village has filed a petition with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to distribute the cost across the water-rate base. While Port Chester taxpayers will still be financing hydrant maintenance, the cost will also be shared by tax-exempt entities within the village that use water.
"It would be spread across all users, as opposed to right now, where it is solely on the shoulders of taxpayers," said Village Attorney Anthony Cerreto. There is still a question of how the new rates would be determined, whether it will be based on water usage, assessed property values or other factors. Cerreto said that question remains to be answered by the PSC.
John Telesco, the production supervisor for United Water, said that the rates are set by the PSC, and that the company does not know how the water rates will increase until the commission rules on the village's petition. Telesco said that the charges are not just for hydrant maintenance such as painting and repair, but that the largest costs are for underground systems such as valves, mains and water storage. The number and location of the hydrants is determined by the village, and the effectiveness of the system has an important impact on the fire department's insurance rates, Telesco said.
Telesco said that United Water would need guidance from the PSC on how it would determine new water rates in the village, but said it would likely be based on the number of hydrants in the village and the number of water users in the district.
The petition filed to the commission was approved by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 16. The PSC will rule on it within 120 days of the petition.