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North Castle Daily News

$10 Million Windmill Water Project has Begun

July 27, 2014
On June 25, the North Castle Town Board awarded Bilotta Construction Corporation the contract to replace the water system in North Castle’s Water District # 2 for the bid price of $9,935,194. Phase 1 of the construction of a new Windmill Farm water system began at the corner of Evergreen Row and Upland Row on Friday. 

Bilotta began by digging an exploratory excavation to examine the layout of the current underground configuration, says Sal Misiti, director of water and sewer operations for the Town of North Castle. This will help to determine how best to establish a temporary hook up for the new water distribution system to be laid down on Evergreen Row, if that is the option that is taken.

According to an e-mail from the Water Committee of Residents of Windmill Inc. (ROWI) sent on July 23, Misiti is working with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to determine if the changeover service to the new water main system will happen piece meal as sections of roads are completed, or if the system will be tied in at the completion of the construction. The ROWI Water Committee does not represent all of the customers of Water District # 2; it is an advisory committee to ROWI, a voluntary residential association for homeowners in Windmill Farm.

The initial reconstruction phase will include work to be done on three roadways: Evergreen Row, North Lake Road and Pond Lane. The phase 1 underground infrastructure work is contracted to be completed for paving by November 1, 2014. The weather will determine the winter construction schedule, but it is anticipated that the construction will continue through the spring of 2015 with a final construction deadline of August 5, 2015. 

The ROWI e-mail says the work done on North Lake Road and Pond Lane “may require temporary above ground water main service during the construction phase due to the brittle nature of existing pipes in those areas.” 

Due to the asbestos material on some of the older water main pipes, the existing pipes will be abandoned in place.

As the work progresses, the contractor is mandated to deliver the following notice to property owners that live on the streets where they are working:

“A water main will be constructed on your street shortly. A water service will be installed from the water main to the edge of the street right-of-way or permanent easement to serve your property or house as applicable. Please be patient with the construction, as your street and property will be restored after the installation of the water main system.”

North Castle’s Water District # 2 will borrow close to $10 million for the project. The terms of the municipal bond under consideration are for terms of either 20 or 30 years, says the ROWI e-mail. The estimated interest for the 20-year term is 3.5% with the total sum of $14.14 million that will cost the Windmill Farm’s district users $1,926 per year per customer. The pay back of the 30-year bond is estimated to be $16.67 million or $1,488 per year per customer. There are 379 customers in the water district, almost all of them are private residences. 

Windmill Water System Approval Flows Smoothly

April 26, 2013
After extended public discussion over the past six months, the fate of Water District #2, comprising all of the Windmill Farm development, was decided by a unanimous resolution at the April 24 meeting of the North Castle Town Board. The Town Board, who serve as the Commissioners of Water District #2, unanimously approved a resolution to send out bids for all the necessary work to reconstruct and improve the entire water system of Windmill Farm.

At the April 24 meeting, the Town Board members unanimously approved that Joan Goldberg, Town Administrator and Sal Misiti, Director of Water and Sewer Operations, proceed to get bids for the request for proposal (RFP) to bond the costs, and to request bids for the engineering services to redesign the Windmill Farm water system. The cost of all necessary site work, equipment, apparatus and other improvements is not to exceed $9,640,000. The users of Water District #2 will be billed an additional water charge of $1,628 per year or $136 per month, equalling $40,700 to be paid over a period of 25 years. A total of $14,816,347 will be billed to pay back $9.64 million in the bonds issued plus interests and fees.

Another option to finance the overhaul of Windmill's water system would be to have the Brynwood Golf & Country Club buy into the upgrade of the system. Brynwood currently buys water as an out-of-district user of Water District #2, as does Coman Hill School. Brynwood has submitted a draft environmental-impact statement to the town for a proposed 88 condominium units.  Although Brynwood had originally proposed that it expand the water usage from Water District #2, Jeffrey Mendell, one of the principal owners, said that Brynwood is able to dig its own wells to expand its water supply.

The Windmill Water District's infrastructure has weak points causing frequent water main line breaks and sporadic loss of water to community households. This problem has been an issue since 1970 and is getting progressively worse, said Misiti. Two surveys had gone out to the 364 users in the district to determine their decision regarding the system's repairs. As recently as April 2, the Board of the Residents of Windmill (ROWI) sent out a series of emails recommending replacement of the entire system of water mains and pipes.

The Town Board's actions were based upon the majority of users who returned the second survey sent to Windmill residents. The results of the second survey, included in the March 1 water bill, were reported by Misiti. The tallied results showed a 59.1 percent return rate or 215 of the surveys returned. The first survey, sent out in the summer of 2012, received a slightly lower return of 53 percent. The second survey was sent out after some residents deemed the first survey biased for several reasons. One was its lack of an option to recommend taking no action. The second survey added the option to take no action, and also the option that the user is unable to make a choice due to inadequate information.

The five options of the second survey were:  
1. I am in favor of replacing all Priority 1 water mains [9,000 linear feet].
2. I am in favor of replacing Priority 1 and 2 water mains [19,200 linear feet].  
3. I am in favor of replacing the entire water main system [44,200 linear feet].
4. I feel we should do nothing.
5. I am still unable to make a choice due to lack of information.

The results were report by Misiti as follows:
1. Priority 1 -- 14% or 30 residents selected this option
2. Priorities 1 and 2 -- 10.2% or 22 residents selected this option
3. Do the entire system -- 55.3% or 119 residents selected this option
4. Do nothing -- 13% or 28 residents selected this option
5. Could not decide -- 7.4% or 16 residents selected this option

At the April 24 meeting, developer Michael Fareri, who has built several private homes in Windmill, said he was in favor of the replacement of the entire Windmill water system because it is old and has caused collapses over the years. Fareri said the $9.4 million resolution to repair the water system has not gone far enough because it does not include the expense of resurfacing the roads after the work on the water system is done. Fareri said the estimated cost to repave the roads would be about $2.5 million and that cost should be the town's responsibility. "Before this gets passed, or in consideration of it, there should be a method of getting all the roads in Windmill repaved," Fareri noted. "Once the water system is done, the roads will be worse than they are presently." He added that proper road maintenance will bring up the value of the homes in the area and inquired about plans for repaving the roads.

Councilman Michael Schiliro said money has been earmarked (an estimated $300,000) for road repairs that have yet to be done in Windmill. "The last couple of years we have bonded for road repairs. It is affordable and has to be done," said Schiliro.

Supervisor Howard Arden agreed with Schiliro and said that the Town Board should get the water district resolution done first and then deal with the road repair. Arden said, "Congratulations Windmill, you will have new water."

Accuracy of Windmill Letter Is Disputed

April 12, 2013
The letter below, that was recently delivered to Windmill residents about Windmill Farm's water system, was a collaborative effort of a small group of Windmill residents will remain anonymous.  

Supervisor Howard Arden said, "The unsigned letter concerning the Windmill project was full of innuendos and false information. It insinuated that somehow the water department was personally gaining financially from the water project. This is reprehensible in my opinion. We are elected officials and we expect to be targets, and there are unkind things said about us. But to say things like that about a civil servant, a career employee, I find just terrible. Unfortunately, it is all too common today when you don't get your way to try to create fear and uncertainty and doubt about the topic. This type of action is below the character of our town."

The president of Residents of Windmill (ROWI), Jan Bernstein signed an email letter addressed to the Windmill community that was in response the anonymous letter. Ms. Bernstein said, "The anonymous letter contained gross inaccuracies and questioned the motives of both the ROWI Board and the [Director of Water & Sewer Operations] Sal Misiti." Furthermore, the ROWI letter stated that "the entirely unfounded implication that the ROWI Board and/or Mr. Misiti have any personal financial interest in promoting this project is false and likely libelous." Bernstein ended the letter saying that the unsigned letter writer "should take ownership of his or her opinion; otherwise, the opinion is as baseless as the inaccuracies and innuendos contained within it."

The public hearing on the Windmill water system will continue at the next Town Board meeting on April 24.

Anonymous Letter Refutes Replacement of Windmill Water System
April 10, 2013

Dear neighbors

I've noted in the several communications from the ROWI Board that there is a very strong push in favor of a complete replacement of the water system in Windmill Farms. I attended a town board meeting last summer and a ROWI meeting in early fall and thought it appropriate to offer an opposing opinion for area residents to consider.

I came away from the first meeting nervous about the condition of the water system and the danger of asbestos in our water. Sal Misiti assistant superintendent of the sewer and water department did a good job representing the construction industry in scaring me into the feeling that this project needed to be done immediately. After a little internet research it became clear that this project might be more of a construction industry money grab than a needed replacement.

Three issues are: (undersized water mains, dangerous cancer causing asbestos pipes, low water pressure.
Term used are:
system reliability well below acceptable levels due to undersized water mains
asbestos cement mains at end of service life
improper installation techniques
system so fragile
improve fire flow
increase in pressure causes line breaks
partial fix no good-not fair to neighbors with old undersized fragile pipes
partial fix no good-increased pressure would cause more breaks in older sections
safety of residents.

The last mailing sent to windmill water district residents by the ROWI board verifies that this entire project of replacing all of the pipes in the water system is a waste of money.

See the 9 "factors considered by the committee in reaching this decision 2/3 of the way down on page 1.

1. fire flow volume and pressure is low
    (Most of the town and almost none of the town of Bedford even has fire hydrants and they are pretty much useless here anyway. Hydrants are needed when houses are so close together that a fire in one will spread to others unless the fire is extinguished. A fire in a stand-alone house that cannot be put out by 6 firetrucks is going to be a total loss and fire hydrant water isn't going to help save anything.)

2. sufficient pressure to fight house fires--
     (pressure from the hydrant doesn't fight fires-it just fills up the trucks)
      (all House appliances now are required to have flow restrictors to reduce water flow pressure to conserve water. Increased pressure from larger pipes will blow gaskets washers and pipe fittings on pipes running from the roads into the house.

These pipes will need to be replaced which will require fences walls driveways and planting to be torn up and replaced.

3) if we do it we have to do it all at once--not a factor in reaching a decision
4) do it now because of the low interest rates--not a factor in reaching a decision
5) if we can bury power lines maybe we can get con ed to pay--not a factor in reaching a decision
6) selling water district to get somebody else to pay--not a factor in reaching a decision
7) getting somebody else to pay for the project--not a factor in reaching a decision
8) getting Brynwood to pay--not a factor in reaching a decision
9) water department says "do it" of course-look who makes the money--very weak factor in reaching a decision

7 Of the 9 factors considered by the committee in reaching their decision are not relevant factors and spending $40,000 plus plumbing and construction repairs per house to viagravate the fire hydrants is ridiculous. The New York city water system has been around many times longer than ours and they don't dig up everything every 50 years because the system is outdated. How many other towns have you heard of that replaced entire water systems?

In a notice sent out by ROWI in January 9, questions were answered re the water project but only #1 had anything to do with the need for the project the only answer being
"Without improvement, it is likely that pressure to users would be diminshed in the event of a fire with hydrants being used."

During a fire with the hydrants in use there might be a decrease in water pressure. How many times has that happened in fifty years, did anybody notice and will not taking a shower during a fire ruin your life?

I got the impression after attending a ROWI meeting that the board was in favor of the project and I also got the impression that one or more members of the board might have a financial interest in promoting the project.

The map and chart that were include[d] with one of the mailings had gross mathematical errors. The simple math was not calculated correctly. If the math on the charts is sloppy how can you trust anything on the charts?

My first thoughts after hearing Sal Misiti for the first time were that the system was weak and dangerous. My thoughts now are that his statements were not accurate and that this project at this time is a big expensive mistake promoted for financial gain.

The word asbestos is being thrown around to scare people but all reports indicate that the asbestos in the pipes is completely safe. It is only dangerous when blasted into the air and inhaled.

To date all repairs to the water system have been handled quickly and inexpensively and have not resulted in any noticeable water bill adjustments or assessments. It is the opinion of many that any major overhauls could be delayed until major problems occur or until those of us who have to pay for the repairs see a real need.

I'm also concerned that the contractors will run out of money part way through the construction which will result in double or triple the cost which is the norm in these types of projects. It is entirely possible that this will increase the assessment for this project to over $100,000.00 per house.

The only people you have heard from and the letters you have received are from those at the water department who are waiting for the 10 million dollar check. They are also the people conducting the survey and counting the votes.

Windmill Farms
Second Survey Sent To Windmill Water District Customers

March 4, 2013
Windmill Farm Water District 2 is constantly in need of repairs. An engineering analysis for the town examined problems such as undersized pipes, the presence of asbestos in cement pipes, and substandard installation methods. The report also said the area's fire protection is compromised by undersized water mains that provide inadequate water pressure. The district's infrastructure also has weak points that create water main line breaks and sporadic loss of water to households.

This problem has been an issue since 1970 and is getting progressively worse, said Sal Misiti, Assistant Superintendent to the Sewer and Water Department.

The Town Board has been discussing the possibilities of repairing or replacing the infrastructure of the system that supplies water to 379 customers in Windmill, plus the Coman Hill School and Brynwood Country Club, which are both out-of-the-district users.

The Town Board members are the commissioners of all five of the town's  water districts. The Board has stated on numerous occasions, including public hearings in the fall of 2012 that they will allow the residents of the district to determine how the water district will be updated. A survey  sent by the Water Department received a 56 percent response in October 2012. Residents have received a second survey in an "attempt to obtain a higher percentage of respondents."

The water commissioners anticipate making their decision based upon the results of the survey which must be returned by March 19, 2013. The second survey has added choices 4 and 5 below but does not include the costs per customer nor the linear feet that was listed in the first survey.

The options presented by the second survey are as follows:

1. I am in favor of replacing all Priority 1 water mains [9,000 linear feet].
2. I am in favor of replacing Priority 1 and 2 water mains [19,200 linear feet].  
3. I am in favor of replacing the entire water main system [44,200 linear feet].
4. I feel we should do nothing.
5. I am still unable to make a choice due to lack of information.

An estimated cost of $10 million to replace the infrastructure of the water district was used in the first survey in 2012. The cost was based on conservative estimates on similar projects elsewhere in Westchester, said Masiti in October 2012. The additional water tax per customer, (from the first survey) to refurbish the system ranged from $338 for replacing Priority 1 water mains, $716 for replacing Priority 1 and 2 water mains, and $1,628 for replacing the entire water main system.

Residents of Windmill (ROWI) distributed an email today that was signed by the ROWI Water Subcommittee: Les Berkelhamer, Jan Bernstein, Pete Coviello, Bob Greene, and Stuart Kovensky. The letter said that after months of research, the ROWI Board has concluded that the best decision is to replace the entire system. They said a partial fix would be unfair to neighbors whose service mains would not be replaced and the older sections of pipes would continue to break.

Furthermore the ROWI Board says, while "a complete renovation is costly, it seems the most sensible option when considering the safety of residents, the total long-term cost of the project and the preservation of our home values." Furthermore the email said, "completing this project in phases may minimize the initial cost, but will result in a higher total cost."

"If the Byrnwood development goes forward," says the ROWI subcommittee, "and the Town determines that it should join our water system rather than use their own alleged water source, Brynwood can be required to pay retroactively for capital improvements."

Assistant Sewer and Water Superintendent Misiti said that residents wrote a variety of questions and comments in the first returned surveys. Misiti answered some of them; the cost to bury Windmill's power lines when revamping the water system is prohibitive. Misiti also said there is not enough room on all the Windmill properties to dig private wells. But if some Windmill residents were to dig their own wells, the shared cost of the remaining homes tied to the water district would increase.


ROWI Tackles Windmill Water Questions

October 14, 2012 
At the October 10 North Castle Town Board meeting, the public hearing on Windmill Farm's Water District improvements was reconvened. The Assistant Superintendent of North Castle's Water and Sewer Department, Sal Misiti, said he and Town Attorney Roland Baroni will meet with the Residents of Windmill's (ROWI) Water Advisory Board to review questions about the options proposed for the improvements to the infrastructure of Water District No. 2. 

ROWI's Water Advisory Board has not convened for a very long time. ROWI's by-laws were written in 1957, when the residents of Windmill Farm owned the water district. The by-laws say that the ROWI board is authorized to oversee the water district's rules and regulations. But since then, the district has come under the jurisdiction of the Town, when North Castle's Water District No 2 was created. The group appointed to ROWI's Water Advisory Board are ROWI board officers Jan Bernstein, Stuart Kovensky and Pete Coviello, as well as Windmill residents Bob Greene and Les Berkelheimer.

Under the Town of North Castle's regulations, the Town Board members are the commissioners of the Water Department, and are responsible for the operations of the town's five water districts. They are responsible for how infrastructure is repaired and how much money will be bonded to refurbish a water district. But Supervisor Howard Arden has repeatedly said that he wants to follow the wishes of the residents in the district, and that they should determine how the system is updated. The problem is that not all of the 379 homes in Windmill are experiencing water problems and not everyone is in support of spending the millions of dollars needed to completely refurbish Water District No. 2. 

Ed Woodyard, a Windmill resident, said that as commendable as the five people of the committee who make up  ROWI's Water Advisory Board are, they ultimately do not represent all the people in Water District No. 2. Woodyard added, that hearings and meetings should be open to people who live in the district, if they would like to attend. 

Supervisor Howard Arden agrees this is a good idea. Pete Coviello, Secretary of ROWI, says the advisory board plans to address all the issues that have been raised. He also says it is a good idea to open the discussion to all of Windmill Farm's residents. 

Only 53% of the 379 Windmill Farm households returned the survey on Windmill's water problems that was sent by the Water Department. The survey asked Windmill's residents which option they support: a partial or a complete overhaul of the eight miles of main water lines that cover Windmill Farm. 

Assistant Superintendent Misiti said there were a variety of questions and comments that were written in the returned surveys. Misiti answered some of them; the cost to bury Windmill's power lines when revamping the water system is prohibitive and there is not enough room on all the properties to dig private wells. If the entire system were refurbished, Misiti estimates the water tax on each Windmill homeowner would be about $1600 per year for 25 years.

Once the Town Board gets guidance from the water district's users, and agrees on how to move ahead, the bidding process begins, says Misiti. Then, every avenue for funding will be explored by the Town Board, Town Administrator and Town Comptroller. 

Some Windmill residents want to determine the funding before choosing an option. The estimated costs to repair the system range from $2 to $10 million. "How can we think about bonding before we know what other programs are available?" said one Windmill resident at the September 27 public hearing. How much funding is available and what the residents will pay, should help determine which proposal Windmill's residents will choose. Windmill residents are exploring ways to privatize their water system, and are researching how to possibly fund the projected millions of dollars with county, state or federal aid grants. 

Misiti said he will continue to collect the surveys, even though Windmill Farm resident Stan Simon, who has been in market research for 40 years, says the Water Department's survey is biased. Simon says he would like to see the town hire a professional research company to perform another survey. Simon says professionals use a variety of  methods, including email and if necessary, a door-to-door campaign, to get higher return results. 

Misiti and Town Attorney Roland Baroni will advise the Town Board of their meeting with the ROWI water advisory committee. The continuation of the public hearing by the Town Board will be delayed until more questions are answered, which could be a lengthy process. 

Survey of Windmill Water District 2

October 9, 2012
The North Castle Town Board will reconvene its public hearing regarding Windmill Farm's Water District No. 2 on October 10 to consider borrowing $9,640,000; the figure represents the estimated maximum cost for Windmill's water main replacement project. Although the project has not been bid on yet, the conservative, estimated costs are based on similar projects elsewhere in Westchester County, said Sal Misiti, Assistant Superintendent to the Sewer and Water Department. Masiti said they will explore all avenues to save as much money as possible.

An engineering analysis performed for the town confirmed some of Windmill Farm's water- infrastructure problems, including undersized pipes, the presence of asbestos in cement pipes and substandard installation methods. The report also concluded that the area's fire protection is compromised due to some undersized water mains that provide inadequate water pressure. The district's infrastructure has weak points that create water main line breaks and sporadic loss of water to households. This problem has been an issue since 1970 and is getting progressively worse, said Misiti.

The North Castle Sewer and Water Department sent a survey to residents of Windmill Farms that asks for feedback on the various options to replace the water main pipes in the eight miles of the system.

Stan Simon, a resident of Windmill for 35 years, said that the 50-percent response to the survey does not represent everyone that lives in Windmill. Based upon Simon’s 40 years in market research, he said the survey is biased because it doesn’t allow a respondent to indicate "I do not approve" of the survey options. Since every member of Windmill will spend more than $50,000 over 25 years, Simon recommends that an independent market research firm conduct another survey that would be unbiased.

At the August North Castle Town Board meeting, a hired consultant discussed bonding the Windmill water project, using county and federal grant programs. Supervisor Howard Arden said a search for grant money would be explored. However, Masiti stressed that grant programs for private water supply have limitations and that they require certain qualifications, such as the median incomes of the community.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said he has engaged in two conversations with the New York State Controller’s office concerning the privatization of Windmill Farm’s water system. Baroni concluded that under the town law in the state of New York, a municipal water system can only be sold to another municipality, the county, or another town or village, which is unlikely. The other option is to liquidate the water district to a joint-operating water works system. There are currently two independent operations in Westchester. One is located along the Westchester Hudson River communities and the other is located in the communities along the Long Island Sound. Baroni said he will contact the companies to determine if either one is interested in purchasing a non-contiguous, well-supplied system with a limited expansion potential. He added that he doubts this is an avenue to explore further.

Masiti said that in an effort to allow additional time for more responses, the completion date to return the survey has been extended from September 21 to October 10.

The surveys questions are as follows:

( ) I am in favor of replacing all Priority 1 water mains [9,000 linear feet] -- estimated to
cost $2,000,000
Cost per customer: $337.79 per year ($28.15 per month)

( ) I am in favor of replacing Priority 1 and 2 water mains [19, 200 linear feet] -- estimated
to cost $4,240,000
Cost per customer : $716.12 per year ($59.68 per month)

( ) I am in favor of replacing the entire water main system [44,200 linear feet] -- estimated
to cost $9,640000
Cost per customer : $1,628.17 per year ($135.68 per month)

( ) Other: please explain

Comments or questions:

The survey says, "The decision on how much of the system should be replaced is up to the District’s Commissioners, who are the members of the North Castle Town Board. Since District 2 customers will be paying for the upgrade, the Commissioner's decision will be based on what the District residents want." The debt service for the funds of the project will be divided equally among the district's 379 customers.