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Cape town attorney: Water District 6 was never formally expanded

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CAPE VINCENT — The town of Cape Vincent never followed the legal steps necessary to expand Water District 6 formally, and properties later included — without the owners’ consent — may not have to be involved in the multimillion-dollar project after all, the town attorney said.

Town attorney Mark G. Gebo said Water District 6 was never expanded legally to include the additional 20 properties — some of which were already drawing water from the village as outside users.

Mr. Gebo said it is also typical for municipalities to seek grant funding before forming a water district.

James W. Mason, who was considering annexation after receiving a survey that identified him as a Water District 6 user, argued that the town has essentially wasted thousands of dollars in engineering fees for the district’s expansion, which many of the new users will never agree to because they already receive municipal water service.

“Now I understand we’re back to square one,” he said.

Mr. Mason said local officials probably would not have “misspent” town funds if they had gathered feedback at an informational session last fall, before asking its engineer to draft a plan for a larger project.

If the town can secure funding for the estimated $2.8 million project, Water District 6 would serve more than 90 homes west of the village of Cape Vincent and the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse facilities.

But town property owners near the village’s western boundary, including Mr. Mason, have been arguing that they were lumped into Water District 6 only to make the project more affordable for the original district’s residents.

“I’m in favor of people on the river getting water, but I’m not going to pay for it,” said Richard J. Edsall, Pleasant Valley Road. “That’s basically taxation without any benefit.”

Mr. Edsall said he just wants the Town Council “to do something to get us out of this mess” and provide a written answer as to whether his property would be included in the water project.

If the town tells him that his property must be included in Water District 6, Mr. Edsall said, he would try to stop the entire project — which he feels is unfair for people who actually need public water — to protect his financial interests.

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