Below is a release from the Saratoga Springs City website regarding the resolution of an investigation initiated in 2014 into the city’s policy on fees for connections to city water and the city’s management of these fees. The investigation was prompted by then Mayor Joanne Yepsen and William McTygue. The New York State Comptroller’s office sent investigators who extensively interviewed city employees and elected officials. They also secured an extensive inventory of city records. Now five years later they have returned the records to the city and informed the City Attorney that the matter is closed.
City of Saratoga Springs
Department of Public Works
Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, Commissioner of Public Works
September 17, 2019
Comptroller Closes Five-Year Water Connection Fee Investigation
Matter “Concluded, Without Report”
Saratoga Springs – City Officials announced today that a five-year investigation by the New York State Comptroller’s office into water connection fees has finally been closed. A representative from the Comptroller returned all files related to the investigation to the Saratoga Springs City Attorney’s office and reported the matter to be “concluded, without report.”
The initial investigation was requested by former Mayor Joanne Yepsen, following reports of mishandled water connection fee waivers. In December of 2014, during the investigation, the City Council voted 5-0 to approve connection waivers that were in question for a project on Weibel Avenue. In addition, the council voted 4-1 under the advice of legal counsel, to abolish the water connection fees altogether. Yepsen was the only vote to keep the connection fees in place.
“The conclusion of the Comptroller’s investigation without a report confirms that the council made a sound decision in 2014 to eliminate connection fees because it was a bad policy, plain and simple,” said DPW Commissioner Anthony, “Skip” Scirocco. “The only issue with water connection fees was their existence in the first place, and when they were challenged in court multiple times the City lost.”
Water connection fees were first approved by the City Council on November 24, 1992 by a resolution proposed by then Commissioner of Public Works, Thomas McTygue, in an effort to help fund the former Commissioner’s endeavor to use Saratoga Lake as the City’s water source. At that time a 1988 state report suggested that Loughberry Lake only had an approximately 10 year life span remaining as the City’s main water source. Utilizing Saratoga Lake would have cost taxpayers between $15 million and $30 million, based upon published reports.
Time has proven the 1988 report to be inaccurate. The addition of a new water source, the Bog Meadow wells to supplement Loughberry Lake that were installed by current DPW Commissioner Scirocco, have satisfied water source capacity requirements.
Water connection fees were challenged in court and the City lost a number of legal actions. In 1996, the water connection fees were challenged in an action commenced in Saratoga County Supreme Court and, by Order dated May 8, 1998, were found by Supreme Court Justice, Stephen A. Ferradino, to be illegal and unconstitutional. The Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed that decision on appeal.
The City was also sued in an action commenced in 1997 which, likewise, resulted in an Order, this time from Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice, William H. Keniry, dated September 22, 1999, finding, again, that the water connection fees were illegal and unconstitutional.
Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan said, “In 2014 the Finance Department acted in our Charter-given authority as internal auditor and reviewed how water connection fees were being applied following an inquiry by former Public Works Director William McTygue. When Mr. McTygue did not like the results of Finance’s thorough internal audit he approached former Mayor Yepsen, who then called on the New York State Attorney General and Comptroller to investigate the City. It’s unfortunate it took five years for the State to reaffirm what the Finance Department, and a majority of the City Council, rightly believed at the time. I’m glad that we can now put this issue to rest.”
Presently, the Department of Public Works continues to ensure an adequate water supply for residents of the City of Saratoga Springs. In 2014, four new wells were developed at the Bog Meadow reservoir, resulting in an increase in the “safe yield” of the City’s water supply to more than 9 million gallons per day.