As Southampton Town weighs whether to turn over the Hampton Bays Water District to the Suffolk County Water Authority, the town is seeking input on the decision in a survey mailed to Hampton Bays residents.

The town is also considering holding a public referendum on the proposal.

Earlier this year, the town installed a carbon filtration system on several wells in the well field, just south of downtown Hampton Bays, due to the presence of the emerging contaminant PFOA/PFOS in the water supply, and the water system there is in need of about $14 million in improvements.

If SCWA were to take over the water district, it would spread the cost of those improvements over its entire cusomer base instead of just residents of Hampton Bays, who currently pay for the water district throug a line item on their property tax bills and through quarterly usage bills, according to SCWA CEO Jeffrey Szabo.

The Suffolk County Water Authority also bills its customers on a quarterly basis. SCWA representatives have told the town board that the Hampton Bays Water District’s 13 employees would be offered jobs with SCWA and the town would continue to set customer rates.

A survey on this proposal has been mailed to all customers of the water district and includes a postage paid return response envelope. The survey has five questions addressing customer satisfaction, water quality and the proposed management agreement with the Suffolk County Water Authority.  Recipients have until Jan. 14 to complete and return their response card.  The results will be tabulated and made available to the public on the town’s website www.southamptontown.gov.   

This new survey follows two public information meetings and a 10 question survey still available to the public on the Town website.  The online survey has received approximately 450 responses to date. 

In the recent public information meetings, the town board, which acts as the water district commissioners, heard requests for a public referendum. 

The Town Attorney’s office, with assistance from the Town Clerk’s office, is researching the proper legal protocol for holding such a referendum, including establishing an accurate and verifiable voter registry and a mechanism for allowing for validated absentee ballots, since such a referendum cannot rely on the voter registration information established for a general election.  

A resolution to establish a public referendum and define the details of any proposed management agreement would also require one or more public hearings.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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