Water district residents speak out

Town of Johnstown held its regular meeting on Monday. Shown is Supervisor Jack Wilson, left, and the town’s attorney Leah Everhart. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O’Hara)

JOHNSTOWN — Residents of the Aspen Hills Water District were in an uproar at the town board’s regular meeting on Monday over having to pay back the remaining loan of $14,237 for a water leak which was discovered in 2015.

The $14,327 stems from the approximate $18,000 that the town had paid due to a water leak. The leak began sometime in 2011 when a property owner hired a contractor who illegally hooked up to a city of Johnstown fire hydrant to test the lines for leaks, but never turned the hydrant off. Water had been leaking for four years until it was discovered in 2015 and the city capped the leak. The water leak affected 55 homes in the Aspen Hills Water District in the town of Johnstown on Route 67, Breckenridge Street and Horseshoe Drive.

In June, a resolution to set up a payment plan to have the 55 homes in the water district pay back the rest of the money owed to the town did not pass after a tie vote of 2-2.

One of the residents of the district, Jim Corbett spoke first, giving a history of the water district and questioning why the residents in the water district have to pay for water they had no part in losing.

“Why has [the property owner] not been billed?” Corbett asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong, we’ve lost no water.”

Other homeowners in the district who attended the meeting also questioned why that homeowner isn’t the one paying the bill.

“Ultimately the money that the town paid to keep the water running up there will have to be paid back to the town,” said town Supervisor Jack Wilson.

He said the town board will have to re-address the resolution that wasn’t passed to have some sort of payment plan in place to have that money paid back. Wilson said once the resolution is passed, a letter will be sent out to residents informing them of the payments.

Residents however continued to question why they are the ones who have to pay for the leak and not the property owner who had the contractor illegally tap into the fire hydrant.

Town attorney Leah Everhart said because the leak happened on that person’s property doesn’t mean it’s their obligation to pay all costs associated with the leak.

“It is a district problem, it’s a district expense,” Everhart explained. “The town funded the money which means that people who lived outside this district who have nothing to do with the water at all, have never prospered from it, never relied upon it, have paid that bill. What the town board has discussed is how to calculate it so that the district pays back to the town, which is the legal obligation. The town has identified ways to do that that lessens the burden.”

“The town board is not suppose to spend money on behalf of a district out of general town funds,” Everhart added. “ It did so anyway.”

Residents continued to say that the person who illegally tapped into the fire hydrant should be responsible.

Wilson said the town has talked to the Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown who looked into the problem, however the statue of limitations ran out, therefore the property owner could not be charged for illegally tapping into the fire hydrant.

By Josh Bovee

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