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City appears liable for waterline repair in Lockport

LOCKPORT – It’s almost certain that the city, not the residents of Shaeffer Street, will foot the bill to repair a leak in a waterline on the dead-end street.

The 2-inch water supply line, dating from a 1939 city project, sprang a leak in late May. But under terms of a 1973 Common Council resolution, it was thought that the repair cost would have to be paid by the residents who live on the four-home street in the northern part of Lockport.

There has been no official cost estimate for the work.

Alderman John Lombardi III, who represents the area, said at a June 19 session of the Council that the tab might be $35,000, but Mayor Michael W. Tucker and city Director of Engineering and Public Works Norman D. Allen could not confirm that.

If the leak was located in a connection between the main and the home, it would always be the resident’s responsibility to repair it, Lombardi said, while a leak in the water main would be the city’s problem.

But the 1973 measure seemed to create an exception. That year, the Council voted to limit the city’s responsibility to water mains that are at least 4 inches in diameter.

However, in a formal opinion delivered to the Council last week, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the onus for repairs still falls on the city.

In 1965, the Council passed a measure assuming responsibility for maintenance for all water and sewer mains in the city right of way.

“Once a city allows a water line to be installed on its property, it becomes city property,” Ottaviano said.

He also said the city couldn’t get away with dodging responsibility for mains narrower than 4 inches without making a contract with someone else to assume that responsibility.

“We were always 95 percent sure it was the 2-inch main,” Allen said when asked about the source of the leak. He said he won’t know for sure until the street is opened up, however.

If the leak “is in the middle of the street, we’ll fix it,” Tucker pledged.

Allen said the cost could go up if the old main turns out to be made of lead. Such pipes are now illegal, and the city would have to replace it.

Also, mains as narrow as 2 inches are now illegal in New York, and the city would have to install a pipe at least 8 inches in diameter if it’s going to replace the pipe.

But if the 2-inch line isn’t made of lead and can be patched, the city will simply patch it, Allen said. In that case, the cost would be “minimal.”