Rome to assist Lee in operating town’s water system

Published Jan 11, 2018 at 4:00pm

TOWN OF LEE — The City of Rome will assist in operating Lee’s water system, while the town determines how it will proceed longer-term following the Dec. 29 resignation/retirement of its longtime water supervisor.

The Town Board on Tuesday night approved Rome’s assistance through the city’s Class D water operator license on a temporary basis while negotiations continue with the city regarding the Lee water system’s overall operations.

The town was “without a Class D operator” for its water department due to the resignation of Water Supervisor David Piersall, said Lee councilman Alan Trombley, who conducted the board meeting in the absence of Lee Supervisor John Urtz, who was ill. A Class D operator is needed to conduct the water system under state regulations, Trombley explained. Piersall retired after having been water supervisor for 25 years in the part-time position, and also retired from his full-time position as a chief water treatment plant operator for the City of Oneida.

For the water supervisor position, the town “may find someone who wants to get a Class D license,” but it is “at least a six-month process,” Trombley noted. Among negotiations with Rome are whether the city “wants to sub-contract it out,” in terms of operating Lee’s system, he added.

The city’s temporary assistance involves such aspects as taking water samples and conducting tests in the town’s pump house facility, said Lee councilman Joshua Szyper, who works for the city water department. Lee water department laborer Neil Sestito will continue handling such tasks as water turn-ons and turn-offs for the system.

Councilman Karl Matt asked whether the city would be “receptive to taking it over” and asked whether the town is paying for the city’s operational assistance. Regarding such payments, Szyper said the parties have “not discussed any of that yet.”

The town otherwise has long been providing purchase payments in buying water from the City of Rome’s system to comprise Lee’s water system. The city’s filtration facilities and two reservoirs are located on Stokes-Lee Center Road in Lee, just west of the town’s pump house site. The Lee water system has about 1,300 customer accounts that receive bills from the town.

Trombley emphasized that no decisions have been made about any possible changes in the town water system’s operations. Its customers will see “no changes” at this time, he said, and will continue sending payments to the Lee water department.

The town’s discussions with the city regarding operating the water system are separate from negotiations with the city for water-usage contracts, said Trombley. The town also has been exploring the feasibility of an independent water system supplied by drilled wells, but has yet to conduct any test-drilling while reviewing state restrictions on watershed impacts.