Council still nowhere on water rate hikes for Glen Cove


The Glen Cove City Council is still divided on the issue of water rate increases. At a working session of the council on Tuesday, Mayor Tim Tenke proposed a 20 percent rate hike, a reduction from the 25 percent that the council voted down in late June.

At the June 28 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck presented a last minute proposal — a 15 percent rate hike — that was also voted down.

Panzenbeck’s proposal would have meant a $3 increase per quarter for the average ratepayer. Tenke’s original proposal would have meant a $5 increase, and his updated 20% proposal would have amounted to $4 more on average.

The council has been discussing the rate hikes as a way to address debt service payments, which will become due in January 2019, related to the city’s recent borrowing to install filters on the city’s Freon-contaminated wells. Panzenbeck’s proposal would have covered the payments that become due in 2019, but Tenke has said that another round of borrowing will be needed next year to complete the well projects, and his proposal aims to preemptively address payments on that borrowing as well.

A 15 percent hike would have fallen approximately $13,000 short of covering the second set of borrowing, while a 25 percent increase would cover both rounds of debt service, and left the city with a $267,000 surplus in the water fund.

Because of the water department’s quarterly billing schedule, if the council can’t agree on a rate hike by its August 28 meeting, the city will have to wait three more months before implementing increases, missing out on the extra revenue in the meantime.

For the first time since the council began discussing the issue in late May, Councilman Nick DiLeo, who voted against both Tenke’s and Panzenbeck’s proposals, suggested that a payment in lieu of taxes that the city expected to receive from Garvies Point developer RXR could be used to address the debt service without raising rates.

Tenke argued that an increase in the water rates — which has not been done since 2004 — was needed in order to maintain a healthy water fund, which he said would have precluded the need to bond for the well filters in the first place.

In August, the council is slated to vote to allow the mayor to apply for a $944,000 grant to help offset some of the cost of the well projects, and Tenke said that there were other grant opportunities he was looking into as well.

The city is also working with D&B, an engineering firm, on plans for a new well at the site of the former Coles school.