Manorville residents held a press conference on May 22, 2021 to renew their call for public water to serve the area. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town will enter into an agreement with the Suffolk County Water Authority to have the authority provide public water to an area of Manorville the town water district has been unable to serve.

The agreement between the town and the water authority comes ahead of a looming deadline for New York State water infrastructure grant applications. The agreement is seen as necessary to enhance the town’s chances to obtain the state funding that will make the water main extension feasible.

The state, in the last round of funding, did not fund Riverhead’s application for a grant to help the town water district extend a water main to Manorville. The town did obtain $3.5 million in congressionally directed federal funding for extensions to Manorville and the adjacent River Road area of Calverton. But without state assistance, the project, which now carries a price tag of nearly $9.5 million, remained cost-prohibitive.

The water authority was able to secure funding from both federal and state sources to help underwrite the cost of its extension to the Brookhaven portion of the Manorville area.

But the extension to the Riverhead portion of the Manorville area remains in question.

Both the Town of Riverhead and the Suffolk County Water Authority will apply for state funding to support the project. In the agreement authorized by the town board today, Riverhead will pay a proportionate share of the congressionally directed funding for the Manorville water main extension, whether or not the town obtains state grant funding. The town will also pay a proportionate share of the state grant funds toward the cost of the extension to the Manorville area.

In the event that Riverhead receives full funding for the project with in six months of the agreement with SCWA, the town water district will be able to purchase the extension from the water authority, which will support the town water district’s permit application for the extension.

If the extension is transferred by SCWA to the Riverhead Water District, SCWA agrees, at the town’s request, to continue to supply water to the properties served by the extension at SCWA’s standard Tier I rate, plus SCWA’s quarterly water quality and treatment charge. The water authority will bill the town water district for the service.

If Riverhead Town is unable to secure the necessary grant funding within one year from the date of the agreement with SCWA, the water authority will charge the property owners in the extension area for the cost of the installation of the water main and tap fees. The town will pay all grant money it has obtained for the extension to the SCWA for the cost of the extension, to reduce the amounts to be charged to property owners to be served by the extension.

The area of Manorville in question is located in the southwest corner of the Town of Riverhead near the Brookhaven Town line. It is closer to the nearest Suffolk County Water Authority main than it is to the nearest Riverhead Water District main.

But the town and the water authority have been at odds over which entity has the right to serve areas located within Riverhead Town that are not already being served by the Riverhead Water District.

“This is what public authorities are made for, these very difficult, challenging situations,” Riverhead Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said of the final agreement. “They’re just more flexible financially.”

Mancini said that Riverhead’s agreement with the water authority is “almost identical” to that between the water authority and the Town of Brookhaven for the extensions in the Brookhaven part of Manorville.

Suffolk County Water Authority CEO Jeffrey Szabo said through a spokesperson that the authority continues to work with the town on finalizing the agreement and is reviewing an amended version sent to the authority by the town this afternoon.

“Additionally, in order to make sure the community is in the best position to receive more funds for the project from New York State, SCWA and Riverhead Town plan to individually apply for grant funding prior to the state’s Sept. 9 grant submission deadline,” Szabo said in a written statement.

Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy, who has been a vocal advocate for public water to the community, said the town’s authorizing the agreement is “a step in the right direction.”

McClinchy said in a phone interview this afternoon following the town board meeting that the town had “two issues with the previous grant application.” The application was incomplete and the water district has a capacity issue with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, McClinchy said.

“From a resident’s perspective, let’s fix this ahead of time,” she said.

“The primary function of government is to ensure the health and safety of the residents it represents,” McClinchy said. “There is no greater issue regarding health and safety than the provision of clean, safe drinking water for every section of every community in this nation, including Manorville in Riverhead Town,” she said.

“Safe drinking water must be the top priority for the Riverhead Town Board,” McClinchy said.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar hailed the agreement with the water authority as “great progress.” At the start of today’s meeting, Aguiar announced that she had concluded a call with the water authority 10 minutes before the town board meeting started. “And it appears that we have reached a resolution to hook up Manorville,” she said.

Due to the last-minute nature of the agreement, the resolution authorizing it was not on the agenda but was taken off the floor.

“The goal is to get water there, but we’ve got to get funding first,” Council Member Ken Rothwell said.

“I think this is a great step to prove that we will now have the ability to get pipes in the ground. And now what’s holding us back is getting the money,” Rothwell said, moving to take the resolution off the floor.

“It’s a good collaborative effort,” Aguiar said.

Alek Lewis contributed reporting.

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