A feasibility study that would determine if a public entity could accommodate New York American ratepayers on the North Shore could be launched as early as next month, according to representatives from the Sea Cliff Water Service Area Advisory Committee.
The Village of Sea Cliff formed the committee last October to identify a firm to conduct the study, which would determine the feasibility of switching the area’s water supplier to a public utility. The study will be funded with an $80,000 grant obtained by former state Senator Carl Marcellino.
“Doing the feasibility study is the next definitive step in getting public water,” said Glen Head resident Lawrence Ruisi, who co-chairs the committee. “Once it’s conducted we will have the instructions on how to get public water.”
Committee member Agatha Nadel, of Glen Head, said the study would also determine the status of the district’s water infrastructure and the total value of the company’s Sea Cliff assets. “But the key here is it has to be truly independent,” she added.
Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy, who also serves as the committee’s co-chair, said the group has met with potential bidders to ensure the RFP to solicit a firm is full in scope. “We’re looking for engineering firms that are experts on water supply, and utilizing our existing relationships to make sure the RFP is inclusive,” he said. “We don’t want to miss anything that could be substantial.”
Kennedy added that the committee met with State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Huntington Democrat, before the new year to bring him up to speed on the process. He said that Gaughran — who served as the chair of the Suffolk County Water Authority for eight years — provided the group with additional information to include in the RFP.
Ruisi confirmed that the committee has been in talks with three prominent consultancies in the water industry, but did not disclose the names of the firms. He did say that the firms were familiar with the water infrastructure in Sea Cliff and Jericho.
Ruisi said that since the Jericho Water District already services a portion of North Shore residents, coming under its jurisdiction would be a no-brainer. “In our current district, on some of the blocks, half the residents get Jericho Water and the other half get American Water,” he said. “There are arbitrary lines everywhere.”
During the RFP process, the co-chairs highlighted the group’s goals and expectations for the study. “We explained to them where we want to be, and they’ll create the project that’ll get us there,” Ruisi said. “The firm would come up with a comprehensive report that talks about costs, establishes a timeframe and what they think is the best option for us.”
The committee’s “sole focus,” Kennedy said, is to merge with Jericho. He added that he and Ruisi have had multiple conversations with district commissioners since the process began. “Jericho’s requiring the feasibility study to consider potentially taking over [our] district,” he said. “It has to be a mutually beneficial relationship or it’s not going to work, and that’s what this feasibility study will hopefully show.”
Nadel showed support for the potential merger. “We know that this logistically can be done,” she said. “We received water from Jericho when a well collapsed in 2017.” Additionally, last June, NYAW administrators had to open an emergency interconnect with the Jericho district to provide water to the community after a system failure caused low water pressure and discolored, sediment-ridden water to flow through the faucets.
The committee recently met with NYAW president, Lynda DiMenna, to hear the company’s thoughts on how they could reduce costs and regain customers’ trust if they were to remain as the area’s water provider. The company declined to comment, however, on their impressions regarding the forthcoming study.
Ruisi said the committee expects to choose a consultant and launch the study by early February.