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Riverhead Water District proposes rate increase to fund repairs to water tanks, facilities

The Riverhead Water District is proposing an increase to its water rates for the first time since 2016, and it is planning to use the increased revenue to repair some of its larger water tanks and facilities.

“In all, the water rates proposed herein are expected to ultimately generate an additional $1.6 million a year to the water district,” according to a water rate study prepared for the district by H2M architects and engineers.

The cost per 1,000 gallons after the minimum water amount has exceeded is proposed to increase by 8.6%, according to the report.

Also proposed is a new capital improvement surcharge.

“We’ve been able to survive, but the only way that’s been able to be done is by deferring the maintenance costs we have on really large and expensive assets,” said Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session. 

An example is the tank on Route 58 opposite the former Walmart site. 

“It should have been rehabbed in 2010 and now it’s 10 years later,” Mr. Mancini said. “It went from a $2 million job to a more than $3 million job.”

The other facility in question is Plant 10 in Northville, which needs about $1.5 million in maintenance costs, according to Mr. Mancini. 

The cost to replace a large tank like the one off Route 58 would be about $7 million, including demolition costs, he said. 

The district has been “kicking” projects down the street by putting off maintenance, he said, adding that it’s easy to do so since maintenance doesn’t generate income the way water sales do. 

“We’ve been doing this for a few decades and it’s gotten to a critical point where we really need to address these projects,” said Mr. Mancini, who began working for the town last year.

Town Board members agreed that the maintenance work needs to be done. Riverhead’s water rates are much lower than other areas.

“It’s not a rate increase,” Councilman Frank Beyrodt said. “It’s an investment in our biggest asset.”

Mr. Mancini said the Riverhead water rate is almost half compared to where he lives in Shirley, which is in Brookhaven Town.