Argument over water bills at Greenport Village Board meeting

Who did what to resolve a water bill snafu and when did they do it?

That seems to be the gist of the latest clash between members of the Greenport Village Board and candidate Bill Swiskey at the board’s Monday night work session. This one was about water bills.

Mr. Swiskey said customers received bills this month that overcharged them by $200 to $300 and no one was dealing with the problem until he stepped in. Village officials acknowledged there had been a billing problem but said that they were on the case before Mr. Swiskey got involved.

Mr. Swiskey’s said that customers call him when they get no satisfaction from village employees. His intervention, he said, led to corrected bills. He warned Village Board members that they should be making sure all bills are checked for overcharges.
Mayor David Nyce acknowledged that there had been a glitch in the billing system. Trustee Mary Bess Phillips went on to explain that village officials were well aware of the problem and were moving to check all bills.

Greenport bills its water customers monthly but uses Suffolk County Water Authority meter readings once a quarter, estimating bills for the other two months of each quarter, according to utilities chief Jack Naylor. Most Greenporters are customers of the Greenport water company, while 99 are actually SCWA customers who are billed through the village.

It was first thought that the bills of all SCWA customers might have been affected by a clerical error but, as of Tuesday, only about five incorrect billings had been identified, Mr. Naylor said. All bills are being reviewed and customers are being told not to pay until they receive their next bill, he said.

“The first person who told us there was a problem got adjusted within an hour,” he said. He added he was just beginning to pore over the bills when Mr. Swiskey arrived at Village Hall with a disgruntled customer and refused to leave until the issue was resolved.

Mr. Naylor estimated that customers who might have expected a $50 bill may have received bills averaging $220.

“There’s a procedure in place” to alert village officials to possible billing problems when there’s a large spike in a single bill. That prompts the review of all bills, and such a review is still under way,” he said. It should be resolved by Friday, he said.
that’s a capital idea

It was revealed during a discussion among Village Board members that the mayor has five potential capital projects he plans to propose and ask the trustees to prioritize because they all can’t be undertaken in a single year. The five proposals are:
• bulkheading, pier repairs and upgraded electrical service at Mitchell Park Marina;
• road and sidewalk repairs, particularly on Carpenter Street and South Street between Main and First streets;
• repairs to the carousel doors and paving around the carousel to stop the tracking of small pebbles into the doorways, where they cause problems;
• improvements to McCann Campgrounds; and
• remediation of stormwater runoff problems.

Residents of the North Street block where patrons of Floyd Memorial Library park their vehicles diagonally have been inconvenienced by the parked cars for years, Ms. Phillips told board members. The library serves three communities — Greenport, East Marion and Orient — and the single block of North Street between First and Second streets has to handle all the parking demand, she said. She suggested the board act to add diagonal parking in front of the library on the west side of First Street and, perhaps, to do the same along North Street between Main and First.

She said there’s no opening for negotiation between the library board and the neighbors and it’s up to the Village Board to relieve residents of the burden resulting from an increase in hours and programs at the library.

“I would like to see some action started,” Ms. Phillips said. The board should not delay action for public hearings or further discussions, she said.

She also challenged her fellow trustees to spend time talking with department chiefs to augment what they learn in monthly reports they give to the board.

Answering a complaint from Mr. Swiskey about snow removal after yet another storm last Friday, Mr. Naylor denied that workers are operating equipment that shouldn’t have been on the road. The village has a new plow on order, but any equipment problems workers encountered Thursday night and Friday were quickly fixed, Mr. Naylor said. Windshield wipers went out on one truck and had to be replaced, he said. A taillight on a vehicle was knocked out and was replaced. There were repairs to a faulty hydraulic line and a sander chain, but all were fixed within an hour, the utilities chief said.

As for some salty talk heard over their highway department radios as crew worked the snow cleanup, Ms. Phillips said she understood their frustration but cautioned them to watch their language because people are listening and some are easily offended.

Mr. Naylor noted that the regular highway crew had been augmented by sewer department workers and meter readers and even some board members, who helped shovel snow and bought food for the crew members. He had high praise for all who joined in the effort.

What troubled Mr. Naylor were the 175 vehicles found illegally parked on village streets. The village code requires that all vehicles be removed from public roadways when a storm is predicted. One of the vehicles left on the street belongs to the village,

Mr. Nyce acknowledged, saying he had been angered to learn that. He’s working with village attorney Joseph Prokop to authorize Mr. Naylor to issue tickets to those who leave their vehicles illegally parked on the street when a significant storm looms.

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