Friendship challenges state audit
By Brian Quinn
Daily Reporter
Friendship officials responded to a January water accountability audit by challenging some of the state’s conclusions — including the claim that a water district lost 57 million gallons of water over roughly 19 months.
The cost to produce the water lost, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office, was about $176,000. This was high by around $119,000, according to the Town Board. The audit covered the period from Jan. 1, 2012, to Aug. 12, 2013.
“The report erroneously alleged that the water district lost more than 57 million gallons of water. It failed to take into account the fact that unmetered water was used to flush hydrants, fight fires, clean the reservoir, and ‘blow off’ shallow water lines to prevent them from freezing,” the Town Board said in a press release. Town Attorney David Pullen e-mailed the release to The Daily Reporter Thursday.
The town drafted its response Feb. 12. Town Supervisor James Blouvet had said a few weeks ago the town would respond to the state comptroller’s office audit, but could not be reached for comment since then.
In its response, the Town Board said, “The report erroneously reported that the water district failed to bill for the unmetered water, resulting in lost revenue of approximately $176,000. The actual value of unmetered water was $57,022.50, but that ignores the fact that the flushing, reservoir cleaning, fire fighting, and line ‘blow-off’ were essential aspects of proper district functioning.”
DiNapoli’s report said Friendship officials needed to compare the amount of water produced with the amount billed for and used for municipal purposes to find out whether there was a significant amount of water loss.
“If significant, town officials should attempt to clarify whether the difference is caused by record-keeping errors, leaks, theft and/or malfunctioning meters,” the report stated. “Town officials should determine the causes for water loss and take steps to reduce the amount to improve the efficiency of their water distribution system, enhance the financial health of the town’s water fund and preserve water resources.”
In its response, the Town Board stated, “The (state’s) report correctly noted that there are serious concerns about water meters, but fails to identify those problems. The current meters are no longer being manufactured, and can no longer be purchased.”
The Town Board said the water district is seeking grant funding to pay the cost of replacing water meters.
“Over recent years the water district has expended more than $26,200 to purchase replacement meters, but must now replace all water meters. The cost for such replacement meters will be more than $124,000,” the Town Board said.
“The town of Friendship has studied the state Comptroller’s Office “water accountability” report and considered the recommendations contained therein,” the board said. “The Town Board and water district superintendent will give serious consideration to the conclusions and recommendations contained in that report. The board’s highest priority has been to provide a safe and adequate water supply to the residents of the Friendship Water District at an affordable price. That will remain the town’s highest priority.”