Water talks flow for Rome, Verona

Published Feb 8, 2018 at 4:00pm

The City of Rome and the Town of Verona are in talks about the city supplying drinking water to the town, according to a joint announcement by Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo and Town Supervisor Scott M. Musacchio.

“Supervisor Musacchio approached me approximately a year ago to discuss the lack of clean, filtered water for the Town of Verona residents,” said the mayor. “In listening to Supervisor Musacchio and the engineers from Barton & Loguidice, representing the Town of Verona, it became apparent very quickly that Verona had concerns with drinking water supply from a public health and public safety perspective, and the inability of the City of Oneida, Verona’s current water supplier, to provide additional clean, filtered water to town residents currently on private wells outside the existing town water districts. The governor has made it clear that he wants municipalities to thoroughly investigate and work together on large scale projects like water expansion to achieve economies of scale and intermunicipal sharing agreements where possible.”

The two municipal leaders said they will be requesting the Rome Common Council consider a Memorandum of Understanding with the town to further explore water expansion to Verona.

The next step in the process will be a work session on Wednesday, Feb.14, with town representatives and members of the Rome Common Council to discuss the project, noted Musacchio. The session would be held just before the council’s regular meeting that night at 7 at City Hall.

A memorandum could then be on the council’s Feb. 28 meeting agenda.

“The Town of Verona has had many concerns surrounding potable well water sources, and I believe this project will be a sensible partnering of resources to overcome this very important public safety concern in Verona,” said Musacchio.

Costs to expand the system to Verona would be primarily paid for by the town, noted Rome Public Works Commissioner Butch Conover.

Rome’s system provides water to about 32,000 customers inside and outside the city. It already serves parts of the Towns of Lee (about 1,300 customers), Floyd (about 1,000 customers), Westmoreland (20 customers) and Whitestown (12 customers) and the residents of Camelot Village (about 100 customers). Customers use about 9 million gallons of water daily on average. The plant filters water on pace with usage, but can filter up to 18 million gallons daily. The plant also maintains a pair of reservoirs that hold a total of 65 million gallons of treated water. The city is in the midst of adding an ultraviolet filtering system under federal mandate, but leaks in consecutive days in November 2016 have delayed completion of the project.

This is not the first time the city has considered expansion beyond its western border. Most recently, about 15 years ago, then Mayor Joseph A. Griffo’s administration discussed expansion to serve the Oneida Indian Nation, but that proposal stalled and fizzled out because councilors at the time wanted to see expansion to west Rome residents first.

Since then, the city has expanded its system to do just that. Phases one and two of the northwest Rome expansion project are done, adding about 190 services. The third and final phase is being designed while the city seeks outside funding — $10-14 million — though that phase is primarily for a water tower to boost pressure and would only add about 50 customers. The total cost of the three phases could be up to $21 million.

The Oneida Nation deal would have added about 600,000 gallons of water a day to the amount the system supplied. A deal with Verona would initially mean about 700,000 of water daily, but could mean as much as 2 million gallons daily if the town expanded based on the ability to provide water to more residents, Conover said.

Councilor Kimberly A. Rogers, R-3, represents part of west Rome. “Even though we’ve extended water to a significant portion of west Rome there is a phase three that includes some of my residents. I want to make sure that project continues to move forward.”

Rogers said the chairs of the council’s Finance, Municipal Operations and Economic Development Committees met with the administration last week on the subject. Rogers, who chairs Finance, added: “Since the mayor has committed to residential water meters, it is likely that would significantly reduce the city’s revenue from water from our own residents through conservation so we are in a position where we do need to look for new revenue sources.”

Rogers said the financial terms of a potential deal have not been discussed with the council yet. She also said she is still waiting for a water rate study that was supposed to be done for the city by its water project consultant GHD.