Olney floats idea of having Watertown buy private water district

Should city of Watertown buy private water district?
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:28 PM EST
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TOWN OF WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Could a privately owned water district in the town of Watertown be run by the city of Watertown? It’s an idea floated by city council member Cliff Olney.

Last week, 7 News reported that James Lettier wants to sell his water district, which serves 118 homes in the town of Watertown.

In an email to other council members and the city manager, Olney explored the idea of making the water district part of the city of Watertown.

“I saw the story on WWNY and wondered if there’s a solution and I wanted to look into it,” he said.

Lettiere has offered to sell the 60-year-old system to the town for $500,000.

But, the town of Watertown isn’t interested in buying it. Town Supervisor Joel Bartlett has said the water system is too old and could be expensive to maintain.

It appears Watertown City Manager Ken Mix feels the same way.

Responding to Olney’s email, Mix writes the pipes are likely transite, a material that becomes brittle over time. Mix says he doesn’t think it’s worth paying anything for the water district.

The other hurdle: if the city were to take it over, the town of Watertown residents would be annexed into the city which would mean paying city property taxes.

Right now, town residents don’t pay a property tax.

Still, Olney just wants a conversation to see if the city can help.

“I still need to talk to Joel Bartlett before anything is decided and see what he or Jimmy Lettiere have come up with for alternative fixes. There may be something in the works that I’m not aware of,” said Olney.

Bartlett tells us annexation would require at least 51% of residents to agree. Factoring in those property taxes, he doubts many will be on board.