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Oct 29, 2018 2:17 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Concerns Swell Over Future Of Hampton Bays Water District Employees With SCWA Takeover

Southampton Town officials are looking at having the Suffolk County Water Authority take over the Hampton Bays Water District. GREG WEHNER
Oct 30, 2018 11:56 AM

While discussions continue regarding a potential agreement between the Town of Southampton and the Suffolk County Water Authority to take over operations of the Hampton Bays Water District, some concerns remain about the future of current water district employees.

Last Thursday, October 25, Town Board members, who also serve as commissioners of the Hampton Bays Water District, met with officials from the SCWA to discuss a recently crafted proposal that includes the SCWA takeover of the system in Hampton Bays, which would include implementing $6.1 million in capital improvements over the course of three years.

Town officials were pleased that the plan could offer closer monitoring of the system, but they worried about the possible impact on current employees of the HBWD if the larger county authority takes over and they become part of the staff there.

“We consider the employees of the Hampton Bays district to be resources. They’re our experts,” SCWA Chief Executive Officer Jeff Szabo told board members. “They know the system very well. I would think, initially, those employees would be utilized within the district to ensure there isn’t a misstep, or anybody drops the ball when it comes to customer service or capital work.”

But the future of those employees after integration is unclear. Mr. Szabo would not say whether the employees would eventually be moved to other offices on Long Island—like a regional office in Babylon—once the integration between the two water authorities takes place.

“I could think, at least initially, we could come to some agreement to have them stay on the South Fork,” he said.

Talks to take over the water district, between the SCWA and town officials, began in August after a string of problems were exposed with the water system in Hampton Bays. The problems experienced by residents in the district included low water pressure and discolored water.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has always held the stance that clean water is important for a community. He said there were a lot of complaints about water pressure and water contamination.

“People started coming to me saying they were afraid to drink the water,” he said on Friday. “They were drinking bottled water … and were afraid to bathe in it.”

When the issues were occurring, Mr. Schneiderman said, tests being conducted by the HBWD employees were not coming back fast enough.

If the town enters into an agreement with SCWA, Mr. Schneiderman said the new authority would be able to provide much better testing than what is being done now.

According to Mr. Szabo, SCWA has one of the biggest groundwater testing labs in the United States, which employs over 40 chemists and lab personnel. The SCWA has water tested for 387 different compounds, or 250 more than required under regulation.

“They have equipment we, I don’t think, can afford,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

But before town officials agree to have SCWA work toward better water for Hampton Bays, some things still need to be worked out—particularly the future for current HBWD employees.

Mr. Schneiderman said he is sure nobody will lose their jobs, but there are concerns with benefits.

Both SCWA and HBWD employees are unionized, although under different unions. Mr. Schneiderman said he wants to make sure there is a smooth transition between the two unions.

He also said he is concerned about the HBWD employees losing seniority.

At the board work session last week, Warren Booth, a maintenance crew leader for the water district, told SCWA officials and Town Board members that he was concerned that he and other employees of the water district would drop to the bottom of the flow chart.

Mr. Szabo said even though the positions with SCWA do not have the same titles, the Hampton Bays employees would be looked at in terms of their duties and experience, and then be matched up to positions.

“I want to guarantee that they would recognize the service in Hampton Bays as if [they worked] in Suffolk County,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

He added that if an agreement is made, the position changes could be challenged by the unions. That would only prolong the start of the agreement.

“I think it’s in the public’s interest in terms of higher purity of water,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “If it gets held up for a while, it will be unfortunate.”

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The current employees of the HBWD keep their jobs, get a raise, and have more opportunities for advancement. The complaints that the HB employees would start at the bottom of the ladder at SCWA are crazy; being at the bottom of a ladder is better than no ladder at all; and that’s what they have at the HBWD- no ladder at all. The leadership of the HBWD doesn’t want to lose their fiefdom, and will make up any reason to thwart the merger. First they said the cost of water would go up, ...more
By Bayman (56), Hampton Bays on Oct 29, 18 7:15 PM
If a homeowner does not pay their HBWD bill, the water REMAINS ON and the total of the bill goes on their tax bill. If a homeowner does not pay their SCWA bill, their water is TURNED OFF, THEY MUST PAY THE BILL TO HAVE THE WATER TURNED BACK ON AND THEIR IS A CHARGE FOR THAT. Just so you know!
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Oct 31, 18 1:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Then I would suggest they pays their water bill.
By bmr80 (35), east quogue on Oct 31, 18 3:00 PM
Bayman, where is your data that , "rates will rise faster without the merger"? Also, please present data, not your opinion, that SCWA rates will be resonable?
By loveeastendguy (3), hampton bays on Nov 6, 18 11:38 AM
First check your property tax bill: The HBWD raised the tax levy on water 7% last year. Including the tax, we pay more than SCWA customers and have been for decades. At the same time our infrastructure has not been properly maintained. See the brochure being mailed to all HBWD customers for more details.

By Bayman (56), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 18 2:21 PM
HOW ABOUT THE HEALTH OF H B ???? That is the highest priority and why isn’t the Suffolk COunty Health Department and the New York STate Health Department telling us about our health concerns about the HB water??

In these times of economic concerns, the employees have jobs. Other parts of the country, there is no guarantee of jobs when one company sells to another. Or when one company defaults to a stronger company that accomplish the job in a better and more efficient manner......

speed ...more
By Red Flag (51), HamptonBays on Oct 29, 18 8:02 PM
Southampton Town Board is responsible for the HBWD. The HBWD has not been run as well as it should and at times placed the people of the town at risk. The Southampton Town Board knows this, it has no skill at managing the HBWD.

The leadership of HBWD avoids the SHTB and the SHTB avoids HBWD. After the last year of problems by the HBWD, Jay had to do something. The solution was not from within.

The only way for improvement is to partner with the SCWD. SHTB has no means to fixed ...more
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Oct 30, 18 7:29 PM
Unions have destroyed this country.
By Red Flag (51), HamptonBays on Oct 29, 18 8:03 PM
Employees who will gain a larger paycheck...that was stated in the article written before this one...

.and you don’t have to get transferred out of state for your job...as many manufacturing jobs were offered to go to the Southern states...or

How about this....have your jobs downsized....you are out of a job...period

How about this....your job is outsourced = the job was sent out of the country.

Wake up and be happy you keep your job! Millions of Americans ...more
By Red Flag (51), HamptonBays on Oct 29, 18 8:07 PM
Wonder why people in California live in a RV. Thank those democrats just like New York for highly overpriced everything. Go thank your elected non truth telling officials. Keep raising those taxes and the cost of everything.
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Oct 30, 18 5:09 AM
Wonder why people in California live in a RV. Thank those democrats just like New York for highly overpriced everything. Go thank your elected non truth telling officials. Keep raising those taxes and the cost of everything.
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Oct 30, 18 5:09 AM
Warren Booth has the audacity to speak for HBWD? I guess a convicted criminal who also served on the Hampton Bays School Board is the best spokesperson for HBWD. Sad! Looking forward for Suffolk County to help clean up the good ole boys network that Hampton Bays has become.
By pete458 (1), Hampton Bays on Oct 30, 18 9:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
Also, I hope , all who comment on this thread actually live in Hampton Bays and not other parts of Southampton Town! I believe if we cede control to SCWA we here in Hampton Bays will lose control of this resource to a large, bureaucratic, unresponsive agency based in Oakdale and our costs will rise , in time, dramatically.
By loveeastendguy (3), hampton bays on Nov 6, 18 11:45 AM