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Watkins Glen approves electric rate increase

WATKINS GLEN--The Watkins Glen Village Board voted to approve electric rate increases recommended by the state Power Authority during the Tuesday, Sept. 1 meeting. Set to go into effect next year, the increase will be approximately a quarter of a cent per kilowatt.
"We know the timing isn't great, but this isn't something we could put off until next year," said Mayor Luke Leszyk. "If we voted against the recommendation it would be years before the state would conduct another study which would result in a massive increase instead of being gradual."
Leszyk said since the village has approved the increase in rates, the board for the New York Power Authority will approve the increases during their meeting in January.
"The increase will take place sometime next year, I can't say exactly when because New York is currently under a state of emergency so rates can not be increased," Leszyk mentioned. "So this increase will only take place once that has ended."
Leszyk said the increase was important not only for the budget but also to generate reserve funds for future projects.
"We would like to say we are learning from mistakes of the new sewer treatment plant where in the past sewer rates weren't raised accordingly and there were no reserves and now residents are being hit with high rate increases because bonds are becoming due," Leszyk stated.
While not discussed during the meeting, Leszyk said after the meeting the village is still studying whether or not further sewer rate increases will be needed as the new wastewater treatment plant is running at a deficit.
"As to the sewer shortfall we are still trying to crunch numbers and trying to cover it the best we can," Leszyk said. "We need some time to ensure we don't make a knee jerk reaction. But if we do have to increase sewer rates it might not be a big one and might just be a small one to try to find a middle ground where we can meet our budget."
Also during the meeting, the board voted to accept the Larson Group's environmental impact study regarding $15 million worth of recommended improvements to the village water system. The village authorized Larson to study the village water system using money from a Community Block Development Grant where it was determined improvements were needed. Larson has been authorized to seek as much grant money as they can get to pay for the improvements.
"Ideally we would get $15 million in a perfect world," Leszyk added. "But what we are doing is seeking as much as we can and prioritizing what can we do now and later. We don't want to go into big debt on water."
As a requirement for seeking approval for grants for the project an environmental impact study was needed Leszyk said. "It was the same for Clute Park and other projects."

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