It’s been seven months since South East Nassau Water Authority (SENWA), a decades-old water authority, was re-activated to study a takeover of a private water services for some 40,000 residences and businesses.
This week, despite being an essentially unfunded entity, SENWA took another step forward with its work.
On Wednesday at Marjorie Post Park in Massapequa, SENWA received a federal tax identification number enabling them to open a bank account and retain legal counsel. It also internally distributed a 25-page draft of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to study possible takeover of Aqua Water, the private water service provider to the area.
If they can issue an RFP, said SENWA, they’ll know what it would cost for an actual study to take place and then seek funds to pay for it.
SENWA is headed by chairman Richard Ronan (Merrick), former commissioner of Hempstead's Department of Sanitation. Authority members include John Reinhardt (Merrick), commissioner of Hempstead's Department of Water; John Molloy (Wantagh), chairman, president and CEO of H2M; Woody Kennedy (Massapequa), former Oyster Bay parks commissioner; and Walter D'Amato (Nassau Shores), president of Nassau Shores civic association.
New York State created SENWA in 1991 to study a takeover of the New York Water Service Corporation, but after a study which indicated that a takeover would be too costly, the group was de-activated. Since then, Aqua New York purchased the local water service, and complaints about rates and quality of service have continued.
Aqua New York is part of a large private nationwide water and wastewater service provider. The South Nassau area is its core of operations, which include regional holdings in Seaford and upstate, according to SENWA.
But water bills soared to more than $200 in the summer of 2009 – said to be among the highest rates in the nation.
“Why should our bills be so high when our neighbors with public water are paying under $30 for the same usage?” said Claudia Borecky, head of the North and Central Merrick Commnunity Association, in a 2010 letter to Oyster Bay and Hempstead.
In response, the two towns reactivated SENWA, and asked them to take a new look at whether a takeover would be beneficial.
But progress for SENWA has been painstaking. “At this point, there’s been no refunding for the authority,” Molloy said. “The original authority had a quarter of a million dollars, so [it] was able to hire consultants. We don‘t know how much it would cost to a study today.”
“We’re trying our best, but we’re at square one,” D’Amato added.
Now with a federal identification number in hand and the draft of an RFP, SENWA can start to come up with an idea of what it would cost to do a study.
“This RFP, for board review, will be the meat and potatoes of what we do as a board,” Reinhardt said. “It can be issued whether or not we have funding in place. Once we have proposals in hand, we can go further.”