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Camillus residents vote 332-153 to make switch to OCWA

— Town of Camillus residents will have a new water provider in 2013.

Residents voted 332-153 in favor of the town board’s proposal to enter a 40-year lease agreement with OCWA during a town-wide referendum yesterday. The agreement, which will effectively eliminate the Camillus Consolidated Water District, goes into effect Jan. 1.

“It was a very low turnout, but it was pretty clear as we were counting the ballots the way it was going to turn out,” said Camillus Town Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan.

The town has been looking at consolidating water service with OCWA for years, she said, but with the retirement of Water Superintendent John Friske in August, now became the time to finally go through with it. The town board entered negotiations with OCWA and OCWA agreed to bring on the Camillus Consolidated Water District’s five employees.

“With no loss of jobs, we thought, ‘We’re going to keep going with this,’ and in the long run it will save us money,” Coogan said.

The supervisor said the town will save about $116,000 in employee benefits alone in the first year, and “those savings are only going to increase as time goes on.”

With the switch to OCWA, Camillus residents will no longer have to pay a water tax of $.38 per $1,000 assessed property value. OCWA also agreed to cover an estimated $3.4-4 million in needed repairs to the water system over the next five years.

“If we had to do that, their water bill would have gone up to about 60 or 70 cents per thousand for the next 20 years,” Coogan said. “OCWA has a big base so they’re going to spread that over everybody, so the repairs will be done.”

Coogan said residents will notice the savings, but the quality of service will not change. A large portion of the town — including parts of Fairmount and the entire first ward, which includes the village — already gets its water through OCWA.

“People can still bring their water bills [to town hall],” she said. “They’re really not going to see any difference other than they won’t have the tax to pay anymore.”

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