His­toric find de­flects Port De­posit wa­ter rate in­crease

Orig­i­nal doc­u­ments prove own­er­ship

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— Wa­ter cus­tomers in town will not face an in­crease in wa­ter rates of as much as 40 per­cent thanks to the dis­cov­ery of his­toric doc­u­ments prov­ing the pres­ence of cer­tain wa­ter mains in the un­der­ground net­work of wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion lines.

Mayor Wayne Tome said the orig­i­nal maps of the Port De­posit Wa­ter Com­pany, which pro­vided town wa­ter in 1896, were found in a safe de­posit box.

“This was back when the wa­ter mains were wooden,” he said.

The map was one of sev­eral old doc­u­ments that the mayor is grate­ful had been stored for safe­keep­ing.

“We kind of had an idea it was there,” he added Thurs­day. “We were very happy with be­ing able to find it. That’s why it is so im­por­tant to save a lot of that his­tory.”

Port De­posit pur­chased the com­pany early in the 1900s. In 2010, Arte­sian bought the town’s wa­ter rights.

The Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­par­ing to launch a project

PORT DE­POSIT

to in­stall a se­ries of larger out­falls in town to lessen the flood risk from the Susque­hanna River. The out­falls will have check valves to keep the river from flow­ing back into town. Part of the project en­tails re­lo­ca­tion of wa­ter mains.

“There are places in town where our lines have to be low­ered to al­low for these drains,” said Joseph DiNun­zio, ex­ec­u­tive vice president of Arte­sian.

Vicky Rinker­man, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said the map held a key piece of in­for­ma­tion.

“It showed there was a wa­ter line un­der Main Street,” Rinker­man said.

Ac­cord­ing to DiNun­zio, that meant the town and the util­ity could prove “prior rights cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

“We were able to show mains were un­der the roads be­fore the SHA even ex­isted,” he said. “If you are there be­fore the state had a right to the road, then any­thing the state does that im­pacts you, the state pays for it.”

With­out that cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, the cost to pro­tect the town from fu­ture floods was high.

“The start up costs were around $1.3 mil­lion,” Tome said.

Even­tu­ally it was whit­tled down to be­tween $500,000 and $600,000, but it was still a huge bill for a town with around 300 wa­ter cus­tomers.

“We were look­ing at a 30 to 40 per­cent in­crease in our wa­ter bills,” Tome said. “There was a lot of angst, es­pe­cially with our res­i­dents on fixed in­comes.”

DiNun­zio said be­tween Rinker­man’s ef­forts and re­search by Arte­sian, it took a year to come up with enough doc­u­men­ta­tion.

“We are very happy. We cer­tainly did not want the town’s res­i­dents to bear the price,” he said.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

The dis­cov­ery of an 1896 map helped Port De­posit and Arte­sian Wa­ter prove to Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion that it must bear the cost of mov­ing wa­ter mains to in­stall a se­ries of out­falls to pre­vent fu­ture flood­ing in town.

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