Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
March 1, 2013 Issue
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Eli Ruiz |Democrat

From left: Lisa Blomme of Melody Lake, Lisa’s mother Dawn DiMilta also of Melody Lake, and Melody Lake Homeowners Association President Laura Jones and her partner Frank stand in the driveway of the destroyed home of Blomme’s brother-in-law Phil Klemen.

Water woes continue at Melody Lake; Thompson mulls taking over

Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO — After years of dealing with shoddy service, constant leaks and frequent service interruptions from multiple water management companies, there doesn’t look to be any relief in sight for the residents of the Melody Lake community in the Town of Thompson.
At press time, it was learned that the town board will meet today to discuss the possibility of taking over the water operations (see sidebar).
In July, White Knight Management – which took over the water system from Jim Barry’s National Aqueous in 2011 – submitted a petition to New York State to abandon the Melody Lake water system.
On September 28, White Knight officially abandoned the system, leaving nearly 60 homeowners in a lurch, and things have only gotten worse in the tight-knit community, with chlorine supplies estimated to last only until January.
A letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does verify that White Knight Management abandoned the Melody Lake water system without official approval.
As of this writing, some in the community are still without water altogether, a tough pill to swallow for residents who were paying some of the highest rates in the state to White Knight Management: $247.50 per quarter.
Resident Lisa Blomme said while the water system was still in National Aqueous’ hands, it raised fees with the stated purpose of funding system upgrades, upgrades that never materialized. Also, according to Blomme, no accounting of the monies paid by residents was ever made available. It has been estimated that repairs and upgrades to the water system could run as much as $2.5 million.
“We homeowners don’t know the first thing about the water system and we’re in no way able to manage it on our own,” Blomme said, adding, “While most people get to go home every night and make dinner, do dishes, use the bathroom, bathe children, brush their teeth and even get up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, most times we can do none of that.”
Blomme became emotional when talking about her brother in-law Phil Klemen, who also lived in the community. A November 2 fire claimed Klemen’s home and took the life of his dog. On the day of the fire, according to Blomme, Klemen was without water.
“I’m not saying the house and dog would have definitely been saved if we had water that day, but at the very least, the option to douse the fire would have been there . . . he [Klemen] didn’t have that option,” said Blomme.
Michael Jacob said, “The water is out every two-three days and you just never know when it’s going to happen. As far as I know, the water isn’t being chlorinated and a lot of us have to lug buckets of water from the lake [Melody Lake] just to fill our tubs with water to flush our toilets… no one should have to live this way.”
Jacob claimed that his wife has been hospitalized three times with H. Pylori (Helicobacter Pylori) bacteria, which affects the stomach and has been linked to duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer, because of the water. Jacob also lauded Thompson
Supervisor Tony Cellini and the town board for “doing as much as they have for us. Someone has been coming out and turning our water back on when it goes off… even as late as 11 o’clock at night,” said Jacob.
Laura Jones heads up the recently formed Melody Lake Homeowners Association which, via attorney Marvin Newberg, submitted a petition with 29 signatures to the Thompson board this past Tuesday, asking the board to incorporate the community into a water district.
More Melody Lake residents have apparently come forward desiring to sign the petition and it has been agreed that Newburg will obtain the new signatures and re-submit the complete petition at a later date.
Residents worry what will happen while the whole process of creating the new water district – it can take anywhere from 12-18 months and requires Public Service Commission approval – takes its course.
“We want the town to take over temporarily and charge the residents a rate and if that rate is not paid by certain residents then their water will be shut off,” noted Newberg. “I asked the PSC to take it [the water system] over temporarily and they said that they don’t do that.”
Newberg’s letter also states that the Homeowner’s Association is prepared to turn over the $6,000 they’ve collected and placed in escrow to the town immediately “as payment in lieu of water rates upon the Town of Thompson becoming the temporary System Operator.”
“Not only do we want to help the folks at Melody Lake, but we have,” said Supervisor Cellini. “Even with our hands tied as they are, we’ve gone up and fixed several leaks and we’ve been chlorinating the water… we’re not being reimbursed for any of this but they are our neighbors and no one should have to go through this.”
The land where the well and pumphouse for the water system reside is still officially owned by White Knight, making it difficult for the town to assume even temporary management of the system.
“I’m hearing that if we do take over temporarily we won’t be able to get out of it later, but I’m also hearing the opposite – so who knows what the truth is?” asked Cellini.
“Once we get the new petition with all of the signatures the next step in the process will start, but if the town doesn’t agree to take over the water district until the water district issue is resolved we’re going to see a sort of doomsday scenario here,” said Newberg. “This has turned into a very complicated mess… a very expensive complicated mess.”
Several calls to White Knight Management for comment were not returned as of press time.

Meeting today of Thompson board

There will be an emergency Town of Thompson Board meeting at 3 p.m. Friday, December 7, 2012 at the Thompson Town Hall to vote for or against the Temporary Operation of the Melody Lake Water System.
“After a meeting [Thursday] with [New York State] Health Department officials; Town Health Officer Dr. Abraham Garfinkel; Town Attorney Michael Mednick; and Water/Sewer Superintendent Bill Culligan it is imperative that a decision be made immediately,” said Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini.

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