Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00
The legislator held meetings at both the Berner Middle School and at the Massapequa Public Library. The Friday night meeting at the middle school was attended by up to 60 people, while on Saturday, up to 30 people jammed their way into a room at the library.
Aqua-New York Water has submitted a request to the PSC seeking approval to raise its rates. Documents submitted to the PSC by Aqua-New York Water estimate that the increase would raise residents’ average monthly bills by 12 percent. The PSC must give its approval before the rate increase can take effect.
At the Saturday meeting, Mejias asked the audience to be vigorous in their opposition to the proposed rate hike. Mejias also enlisted the services of a court stenographer to record all public comments. The transcript of the meeting was sent to the PSC.
“If you don’t say anything, you can be sure that the rate hike will happen,” he said.
Those who spoke all denounced the water company for trying to saddle taxpayers with another burden to their monthly bills. The fact that Aqua is a private firm was a main target of their criticism.
“[They are] a private company whose object is to make money,” said Anthony Coppola.
William Odol, another Massapequa resident who once served on the Massapequa Water Commission, said the water system in the area is “out of control, [both] financially and service-wise,” adding that water district costs in the area are the “highest in the country.” Odol also worried that the modest turnout would not be enough to make an impact on Aqua’s eventual decision.
Raymond Sheehan accused Aqua of water gouging and echoing other speakers, said the situation was “criminal in my mind.” Roberta Gibbons added that the situation is a “prime example of what privatization does to us.”
Paul Teppi claimed that an advisory referendum was a viable solution to the dilemma. “[We are] dealing with a monopoly,” he said. “People pay for a year what I pay on one single bill.”
Stephen Sale noted that while Aqua is a “very profitable company,” it also must pay for surcharges to do business, something that might be behind proposed rate increases. He added that if Aqua were a public company, it would reduce the cost of business, possibly preventing any large rate increases.
To that suggestion, Legislator Mejias noted that there is legislation on the books that would allow villages to create their own water districts or merge with existing districts.
That idea caught on with the audience. Anthony Coppola said that Aqua should merge with the Massapequa Water District, a notion seconded by William Odol, who considered such a merger as the best option available to water customers.
Friday, Oct. 9 was the deadline for Aqua-New York Water customers to raise concerns about Aqua’s rate increase proposal to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC’s public comment period ended on that date. For several weeks, local lawmakers, including Legislator Mejias and state Senator Charles Fuschillo have urged Aqua customers to take such action.
At the meeting, Mejias again reminded water customers to express their opposition to what he termed as “outrageous profits [and] outrageous rates.”
“We have to have a mandate from the people to stop this,” he concluded.
Earlier, Mejias and County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi met at the home of Carol Gordon, vice president of the Breezy Point Civic Association that represents the constituency of the eastern portion of Massapequa. There, both County Executive Suozzi and Ms. Gordon expressed their opposition to the proposed rate increase.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “The residents of this area are tired of being cast aside. We will be silent no more.”
“I strongly oppose any rate increase proposed by Aqua-New York Water Service Corp., already one of the most expensive water providers on Long Island,” County Executive Suozzi said. “The increases being proposed will adversely impact homeowners, local fire districts and commercial customers, including Nassau County. Aqua Water’s already exorbitant rates and its ill-devised rate hike proposal are not options given that water is a necessity.”