Victory for Hollanders

Published 8:03 pm Saturday, August 23, 2014

Give the Suffolk City Council credit for doing the right thing Wednesday night and voting unanimously to cover the cost of connecting Holland residents to new city water service there.

Residents of the western Suffolk village were understandably stunned by a March letter informing them that they’d be required to pay $1,060 per household in fees. A 2012 letter from the city had told Holland residents just the opposite: “As part of the project, the city will connect all existing customers to the new water main at no cost to the customers.”

The $12.7 million expansion of water service to Holland was mandated by the state Department of Health after high fluoride levels were discovered in a city-owned well. The cost of similar projects in other rural areas of the city was borne by homeowners, raising a fairness question: If residents of other communities had to pay, why not Hollanders?

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It’s because Holland residents were promised differently. Who knows why city staff made the commitment they did in that 2012 letter, but had they been up front with property owners about the cost of connection fees back then, residents would have had the opportunity to make their voices heard at the time and perhaps convince the City Council to absorb the cost. Instead, they rested easy, believing the cost was covered.

Wednesday’s council vote followed a recent Town Hall-style meeting in Holland, where residents organized, exposed the double cross by city staff, and began rattling cages. Councilman Jeffrey Gardy, who represents the village and attended the community meeting, made the motion to order city staff to find $196,000 to take the expense off of homeowners.

Holland residents, in proving that you can indeed fight City Hall, may have stirred up a hornet’s nest for council members in an election year. Chapped by the inconsistency, reckon how long it will take other rural Suffolkians who have paid the fees in recent years to demand a refund?