Water rate hike, in-person court among topics for Lee board

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TOWN OF LEE — A water rate increase, still-pending plans to reopen Town Court for in-person appearances, and an agreement for a girls youth lacrosse program to practice at the town park were among the items discussed at the Town Board meeting Tuesday night.

• The town’s latest six-month bills for its water district customers reflect an increase of $14, to a new amount of $226 due at the end of October, and equating to a full-year increase of $28 for a new total of $452.

The increase is “a result of negotiations for 2020,” said Lee Supervisor John Urtz, referring to the town’s new water-purchase agreement with the City of Rome that was reached during the summer; Lee buys water from the city’s water system for use in the town’s system. The agreement calls for the town to pay more to the city than it previously had been, and Urtz had said last May that an adjustment in the annual rate paid to the town by water district customers would in turn be considered as well.

Town councilman Karl Matt said “we don’t have much choice, do we?” and Urtz replied “no.” Councilman Shawn Finster then asked if rate increases would by typical every year, such as “next year...$28 again?” Urtz said rates could be subject to any further cost increases that the town might face at some point.

The town’s water district includes about 3,150 customers through 1,250 service connections, and they are billed at a standard flat rate.

• Regarding a future Town Court reopening after being closed on an in-person basis for several months due to COVID-19, councilman L. James “Jamo” Jones Jr. said there have been meetings with court officials and he referred to having “a couple of trial runs.” He also mentioned there were still some COVID-related concerns.

The Town Board last month had approved a reopening plan for the court, located at the town hall, with stipulations such as capacities, masks, social distancing, temperature checks and COVID questionnaires for visitors.

Urtz cited “a lot of things backed up” that need court action such as items relating to dogs and building codes. Town Clerk Sharon Mortis pointed out some court functions are being done on a virtual/remote basis, but “they’re not accessible to the public...they’re not in the building...nobody’s here for the public.”

• The board approved an agreement for participants in the Rome Girls Lacrosse program to have practices at the town park, pending language being added for a release and waiver of any liability for the town.

Rome Free Academy varsity girls lacrosse coach Doug Rowe, who requested the park usage, told the board he did “not foresee a huge group” being there. He expressed hope that early-evening practices could be held for two or three weeks until daylight gets too short.

Participants would be in groups reflecting grades 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8, and 9-12. Jones, who spoke with Rowe about the request prior to the board meeting, said groups would involve about 10-12 girls. The agreement also outlines procedures involving masks for coaches and players; limits of two people accompanying each player to practices; collection of waiver forms from participants; temperature checks and COVID questionnaires.

Rowe commented “we’ve been trying to find a patch of grass to do something” for practices. Urtz later asked “why are you coming to Lee” for practices instead of using fields in Rome. Rowe referred to limitations on using facilities for school district sports that are not currently in season, and also noted some recent reductions in school modified programs for junior high age ranges.

He expressed concern about players’ basic skills having slipped during the extended COVID-related shutdowns, and the “drop-off I saw in that amount of time.” Girls lacrosse is a spring-season sport in Rome.

Rowe further said “when I saw soccer happening here” at the town park, he hoped the lacrosse program also could do so. The Town Board in August approved allowing local American Youth Soccer Organization teams to use the park for practices from
Sept. 1-Oct. 31.

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