On March 14, State Sen. Carl Marcellino, a Republican from Syosset, amended his bill to require a feasibility study that would determine the viability of a local takeover of New York American Water. The verbiage of that bill was included in the Senate’s budget resolution but did not pass into the final $168 billion state budget late last Friday night.
“We will continue to pursue it legislatively,” Marcellino said. “We’re not letting it go.”
The amended bill would allocate state funding for a study to determine if Jericho Water has the means to accommodate ratepayers in the Sea Cliff district. The senator, who was absent from Friday night’s negotiations, had incorporated the stand-alone bill, along with S6862 and S6863, in the Senate’s budget resolution with the hope that it would pass on to the final budget and become law. Despite its omission, the bill remains in the Senate’s Investigations and Government Operations Committee for consideration.
Kirk Ives, Marcellino’s Chief of Staff, indicated that he’d received “very positive signs” from committee members that the bill will be added to the committee’s agenda and deliberated later this month.
He added that if passed, the study would be conducted by the Public Service Commission. “The PSC had a hand in causing this problem by approving the [rate] increase, and the senator wants to make them part of the solution,” he said. The amendment is specifically aimed at supporting Nassau County’s NYAW customers; 70 percent of a ratepayer’s water bill accounts for company property taxes.
The question of a feasibility study was first raised in February, when local civics and elected officials attended a Jericho Water board meeting to plead a case for consolidation in the event that the state condemns NYAW. The commissioners said the district, which is a governmental entity, was not authorized to expend private funds on such a study. District 18 Legislator Josh Lafazan, a Democrat from Syosset, suggested the money to carry the study be procured from the state.
Glen Head activist Agatha Nadel, who was also present at the meeting, has written to multiple politicians pushing for the feasibility study. When she heard the news of Marcellino’s amendment, she was floored.
“This is the one of the best pieces of news that we’ve gotten in this battle for public municipal water,” Nadel said. “I’m thankful to Senator Marcellino for doing the right thing, and I hope this will get passed.”
NYAW officials did not wish to comment in response to the question of a potential feasibility study and local takeover.
Nadel is concerned, however, about the PSC managing the feasibility study. She referenced the 2016 liquefaction of the Water Authority of Southeast Nassau County, which similarly employed a feasibility study to determine if a public takeover was a viable option.
The authority had unilaterally hired New Hampshire-based George E. Sansoucy, P.E., LLC, a utility appraisals firm, to conduct a study for a takeover in 2012. Two years later, upon the report’s completion and a review by the Town of Hempstead’s Comptroller’s Office, it was found that the study “did not analyze a public acquisition by the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay as [had] been requested.”
“It dragged on for years, and it wasn’t even done right,” Nadel said.