Fleischmanns water tower moved to public property

By Matthew J. Perry
A months-long legal battle between the Village of Fleischmanns and two property owners, which focused on the placement of a proposed water-storage tower, was settled quietly last week when the village agreed to move the tower to another site.
In 2008, the village planned to place a 30-foot, 325,000-gallon water tower on land owned by residents Arnold and Roslyn Bernstein. The village and the Bernsteins were granted a joint special-use permit by the Town of Middletown, including a 99-year easement for the tower, which was designed by Delaware Engineering.
But the owners of the adjacent property, David Schneiderman and Anita Rubin, balked at what they considered to be an unnecessary project placed less than 100 yards from the front door of their residence on Paradise Camp Road.
The resulting lawsuit was set to be heard at the Delaware County Supreme Court on Feb. 6. The day before, documents were filed and the case was officially settled, according to Kenneth Ayers, legal counsel for Schneidermann and Rubin.
“There were no concessions,” Ayers said of his clients. “Our position was that this project did not go through proper processes.”
Rubin argued Monday that the legal entanglements could have been avoided. “When government isn’t open and plans are hidden, taxpayers and property owners are forced to initiate a legal defense,” she said.
Fleischmanns’ attorney, Ed Kaplan, appeared before the Town of Middletown Planning Board last month to request that the board adopt a settlement that would acknowledge the village and the Bernsteins as released from the special use permit. At that time, Kaplan informed the board that another site for the tower had been found.
On Monday, Kaplan confirmed that the new site for the tower is on village-owned land close to the Bush Kill and Emory Brook, and will require much less piping than the original plan. He stated that construction is expected to begin this spring, and details of the financing are unchanged.
Plans for the tower first surfaced in the spring of 2008, when the village received notice from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) that described the village as “exceedingly vulnerable” to a water shortage in the event of damage to its water main or necessary repairs. The DOH letter required that the situation be remedied, although a water tower was required only if the village were to seek municipal funding.
Fleischmanns is seeking such funding, in the form of a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which would cover as much as 45 percent of the project’s cost, according to details released by Delaware Engineering last year. The balance of the fees, likely in excess of $1 million, would be covered by a 30-year loan.
But many residents questioned the value of a project that is expected to increase water rents sharply in the coming years. Since the village population is not increasing, and there have been no water shortages in recent years, some argued that the entire project was unnecessary despite the DOH’s warnings.
Village trustees defended the construction of the tank as the best means to ensure public health a reliable supply of clean water.