Property owner files lawsuit over Fleischmanns water tower

By Jay Braman Jr.
Following months of battling a proposed 360,000 gallon, 50-foot-tall water tower next door to her home, a Flieschmanns woman and her husband have filed a lawsuit against the village and the Town of Middletown to stop it. Co-plaintiff Anita Rubin, who lives on Paradise Camp Road, directed press inquiries to her attorney on Tuesday.
The village has been mulling the water tower plan for over two years, working with Delaware Engineering, the firm that built the village’s sewer system.
Trustees have described the project as a back up system for the village’s water supply, which lost some capacity a few years ago when the village sold two wells. While the village’s supply that comes from natural springs is said to be adequate, the water tower is said to be capable of supplying one to three days of water to the village in the event of some catastrophe. It would also increase water pressure.
That may be all well and good, but on July 11 Attorney Ken Ayers filed a lawsuit against the village, the Town of Middletown and neighbor Arnold Bernstein because his client feels the process used to determine that the tower is needed was shoddy.
Ayers said the village improperly prepared the environmental study of the project and concluded that it was not harmful. He said the Middletown Planning Board then used that study to justify granting a special use permit to build the project on Bernstein’s land. He also says that in exchange for allowing the project on his property, Bernstein gets a 16-foot-wide, 1,000-foot- long private road built on his land at taxpayer expense, thus opening up the property for possible sub-division purposes. He also said the village could increase the size of the tower almost threefold if it saw fit, and that the Middletown Planning Board refused to place any conditions on the permit issued despite cries from Rubin and other neighbors to restrict the addition of any other apparatus, like cell towers, on top of the water tower.
Worse says Ayers is that the project, paid for in part by a $1.7 million grant, would also require a $1.3 million loan. To pay that loan back the village would hike water rates from the $200 a year to $299 per customer.
Rubin said that despite all this, much of it has been kept quiet.
“Not many in the village know what this will cost them in the long run,” she said.
Fleischmanns Mayor Kathleen Wilber could not be reached for comment.