Ramapo/Clarkstown sewer to cost an extra $7.3 million

By Sarah Netter
The Journal News
(Original Publication: March 1, 2007)

A project to upgrade and install sewers in Ramapo and Clarkstown, now more than a half-decade old, is estimated to cost $7.3 million more and will increase taxes for residents.

The new pricetag is $19.8 million for various projects in the two towns, including in the villages of New Square, Spring Valley and Pomona.

"Over time the project has expanded and the cost has gone up," said Dianne Philipps, executive director of Rockland County Sewer District No. 1.

Not only have materials become more expensive since funding was approved in 2001, but the district has also found more work that needs to be done as portions are completed, she said.

Work to extend sewer lines on Ridge Road, which runs through Valley Cottage and Congers, was extended, Philipps said, sothe lines' length would be about double what was planned. That alone will cost an extra $1 million, she said. It's necessary so residents can hook into the line by gravity instead of by electrical grinder pumps, which would fail in a power outage.

"We try to avoid them whenever we can," she said.

Construction costs for a pump station in Congers - also not part of the original plan, Philipps said - are estimated at $650,000.

The cost increases mean the district's residents will have to pay more in taxes. Because the tax estimates have exceeded a threshold set by the state comptroller, the county needs to apply to the state for approval for the new estimates. A public hearing before the Rockland Legislature will be scheduled.

The previous threshold was an average of an extra $11 in taxes due to the project. In Clarkstown, the estimates are now $10.83 for a single-family home and $15.60 for a two-family home. In Ramapo, the estimates are $15.60 for a single-family home and $14.30 for a two-family home.

The average yearly sewer district bill for Clarkstown property owners is $305, and $367 in Ramapo. Bill Beckmann, president of the Tappan-based Beckmann Appraisals, which has been working with the sewer district, said Ramapo's estimates were higher than Clarkstown's because of the difference in how each town assesses properties.

And in Ramapo, he said, many two-family homes are assessed lower than single-family homes.

Anthony Pabon, who lives on Ridge Road in Valley Cottage, hadn't heard of the project in his neighborhood, but wasn't upset.

"If we get better service," he said, "then it's worth the extra couple of bucks."

The county Legislature was supposed to vote on several items last week regarding the project's increased costs, including borrowing the $7.3 million and applying to the state comptroller, but pulled the agenda items at the sewer district's request.

Philipps said the district had legal and procedural questions about the Legislature's resolutions that needed be resolved before they went to a vote.

This town and village sewer project is connected to, but not part of, the larger sewer project in western Ramapo, which is estimated to cost $125 million.

Joseph Kleinberg of Pomona said his family had been promised sewers at their Cooper Morris Drive house for more than two decades.

"It's very disturbing because, as you well know, things don't get any less expensive from year to year," he said.