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Port Chester Daily Voice serves Port Chester, NY

State Commission Clogs Port Chester Sewer Program

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – The village's new sewer rental program, which was approved in the new 2012-13 budget, has hit a road bump in the form of the New York State Public Service Commission.

"The public service commission is still figuring out how to accommodate us. We've heard nothing negative from them, but this is something they've never dealt with before," Port Chester Village Manager Chris Russo said.

The new sewer program charges residents for use of the village sewers based on water usage instead of tax assessments. The shift allows the village to charge properties off the tax rolls for use of the sewers and will increase the amount commercial properties pay in sewer rent.

Half the money the village collects from the sewer tax, approximately $700,000 in the first year, will be rolled into a separate capital fund, which will be used to pay for $15 million in necessary sewer renovations.

Russo said the village needs approval from the New York State Public Service Commission before it can set a sewer fee based on water consumption. If the approval is not granted in time, Russo said the village will be forced to go a plan "B" in the form of a conservative flat rate.

Russo estimates that the conservative rate, which would vary for commercial properties, residential properties, etc., would only bring in about half of the projected $1.4 million in revenue the consumption-based model would yield, leaving a $700,000 hole in the sewer capital project fund. Russo described this as a "worst-case scenario."

Trustee Bart Didden said he was disgusted the board approved a program that has so many holes. Trustee Sam Terenzi said he's worried that if the village is forced to go to plan B, the public will cry foul when the board switches to the original usage based system and increases the fee.

Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla, who has been one of the project's biggest advocates , said that the village needs to explore plan B options more in depth. While some members of the board remain skeptical, Russo is more confident that the PSC will grant the village an approval.

"(Russo's) at the mercy of the public service commission, which could string you out forever," Terenzi said.

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