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Cape Vincent plans to waive overdue charges to resident for DANC waterline


CAPE VINCENT — Resident Donald R. Votra has refused to pay a monthly charge on his tax bill of $106.85 for the past 19 months, assessed by the town because his house that is equipped with an underground well could instead be connected to a waterline operated by the Development Authority of the North Country.

After recently reviewing the situation at Mr. Votra’s residence, in Water District 2 at 31515 Votra Road, town officials plan to waive his $1,349 debt, which includes an $86 installation fee. Officials have concluded the charge shouldn’t have been assessed by the town to begin with, according to Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey. The town has scheduled a meeting Jan. 31 to resolve the problem with officials from DANC, which installed its regional waterline from Cape Vincent to Glen Park in 1997.

“We’re correcting this,” Mr. Hirschey said. “The difficulty is that when the waterline was installed, (DANC) put a hookup into it, but he never used water.”

When in 1997 the authority installed the waterline in the town off Favret Road, it sought to offset costs by connecting water users, Mr. Hirschey said. That effort, led by former Supervisor H. Otis Radley, led to the creation of Water District 2.

“DANC needed water users, and the deal was to set up farmers who use a lot of water because the line went past their property,” Mr. Hirschey said.

The district incudes only three users who draw water from DANC’s regional waterline: Donald J. Mason, a former town councilman, Wesley A. Bourcy, and a Hell Street property owned by Darrel J. Aubertine and his wife, Margaret S., according to Jefferson County’s tax map. Unlike other districts in the town, the district has no debt service, Mr. Hirschey said. He said the town’s job is to collect water usage fees and operation and maintenance charges owed to DANC for the district, nothing more.

When Mr. Votra originally was approached by DANC officials about the project in 1997, he informed them he wasn’t interested in connecting to the waterline about 2,300 feet away from his house. He said the line would have cost him up to $15,000 to install, along with $2,000 for a water meter.

“When they put the waterline in, they put a hookup back there so that I could hook up into it,” he said. “But I never asked for it or gave them permission.”

Mr. Votra had believed the situation was resolved at that time. He paid no charges until July 2012, after unexpectedly receiving a letter from Mr. Hirschey.

That letter, dated July 2, attempted to provide an explanation for the charge: “After reviewing the DANC capital fixed cost between Water District 2 and 3, it has come to the town’s attention that you are part of the original Water District 2 and have a curb stop in the district. While you have never been charged for the curb stop, you should know that other non-water users are charged with the capital cost, this with the understanding that they have the ability to connect to the waterline, which in itself makes the property more valuable.”

Mr. Votra was surprised by the sudden action taken by the town.

“The waterline has been in there 17 years,” he said. “Why am I now suddenly being charged? It’s costing me a lot for nothing.”

Along with addressing Mr. Votra’s situation during its meeting with DANC officials, Mr. Hirschey said, an agreement signed by the town with DANC about four years to bill users in Water District 3 for operational costs of the regional waterline could be amended. That proposal was designed to help offset higher annual costs for users in Water District 2 by spreading some of the burden to District 3 users.

“We’re really hoping to get this straightened out,” Mr. Hirschey said.

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