Browns Hills gets a rate hike

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The Suffolk County Water Authority Board of Directors at a public hearing on the Browns Hills rate increase in Southold in September.

The Suffolk County Water Authority voted unanimously Tuesday night to triple the water rates for 24 homeowners who get their water from the Browns Hills water system in Orient.

The water authority, which has managed the small water system since 1997, has long maintained that the cost of the system has been unfairly borne by rate payers in other areas.

When the water authority first took over the Browns Hills system, which had previously been managed by the homeowners, it charged the neighborhood $495 per household per year for water service. That rate has been the same for 13 years.

According to the resolution passed Tuesday night, as of December 1, 2010, that rate will rise to $1,500 per year.

But rate payers will not receive quarterly bills that reflect that change until March of 2011, said SCWA CFO Larry Kulick on Wednesday.

Even with the increase, the water rate will only cover a third of the cost to operate the Browns Hills system, said SCWA CEO Jeff Szabo.

“The board is making a statement that customers of the water authority can no longer subsidize Browns Hills,” he said.
Mr. Szabo added that the rate increase doesn’t specify a time frame in which $1,500 per year will be the rate and added that the Water Authority has the right to adjust rates at any time. He said he expects the new rate to stand at least for the next year and that he plans to give the public ample notification if the rate changes again.