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No Thanksgiving at community center, but water on the way, Bethany supervisor says

By Joanne Beck
Tanker at Bethany
A tanker filled with 6,700 gallons of water arrives early Wednesday morning in Bethany. 
Photo submitted by Carl Hyde

All things considered, Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde was in fairly good spirits Tuesday evening after making phone calls to Bethany residents for three hours to, as he put it, serve as an early Grinch and rob them of their holiday. 

Those people had been planning on celebrating Thanksgiving at the town’s Community Center because they didn’t have water in their own homes. On Tuesday morning, the Community Center went dry as well. 

“They always rent the hall. So today, I had to be the Grinch that stole Christmas and Thanksgiving. I’m just sick to my stomach over it,” Hyde said. “I’ve been here 60 years, other than the six years I was in the military, and I’ve never seen it like this. And even some of the old people that have been in to see me that are out of water, they’ve been here a heck of a lot longer than me, and they’ve never seen it this bad.”

Just how bad? Out of 665 homes, 100 of those households do not have water, plus several dairy farms that either have no water at all or are having to truck water in to supplement the sparse supply that they do have, he said. And then there are the businesses that are also hauling in water because they have none.

Remember those warnings during the summer to use water sparingly because of dry conditions? While Bethany’s intense dehydration is affecting home, dairy and business owners’ wells, it’s due to the same type of drought conditions, Hyde said. There has not been a significant enough snow or rain fall in a long enough time period, that it has made a huge impact on well water levels, he said.

The sliver of silver lining for Hyde was that he heard from the state Office of Emergency Management Tuesday, and it is sending a tanker full of water — 6,700 gallons full — to Bethany to help out. Hyde will be setting up a schedule for folks to fill their 250 and 500-gallon jugs for at least some relief during the holiday week and beyond. 

He has been gathering a list of people who are without water and encourages residents to contact him if they have not yet gotten on that list. Genesee County Health Department has also been helping out, he said. 

“I can have a system set up for the residents of Bethany that need to fill their water tank. I'm going to have 6,700 gallons to dole out to those people to try to help them out. The Genesee County Health Department's been very helpful,” Hyde said. “They're working, contacting Department of Homeland Services and environmental services to see if they can bring in, get from the state, a truckload of gallons or pallets of bottled water to these people, so we're going all different avenues to try to help relieve some of their pain.

“I’m trying all kinds of avenues. Anybody that wants to help, any big stores, Walmart Tops, wants to donate a pallet of water for the residents, we greatly appreciate it,” he said. “Whatever help I can get for these people, I’m not afraid to ask.”

He will gladly accept donations and distribute them to a community that has struggled with water issues for the last 25 years, he said. He cited one large dairy farm, Lor-Rob, which is trucking in 60,000 gallons of water a day for its 6,000 cows. 

“That’s not sustainable for a farm,” Hyde said. “And if they were to sell off the dairy herd, they’ve got 100 employees. What are you gonna do, kick them to the curb? And it’s not just like one dairy farm.”

He went on to list three or four others, all dealing with the same problem. 

Well, why doesn’t he apply for assistance, certainly there must be aid for a municipality in this condition. He did. In 2022, Hyde included real-life scenarios of what the residents are enduring to apply for a state Water Infrastructure Improvement (WIIA) grant. 

Bethany was turned down, as it didn’t qualify.

“They’re giving money away like candy,” he said. “But when someone is in dire need, you can’t get it. I’m doing everything I can. I've called FEMA, Homeland Security and environmental services. I've called the state, I've called the federal government. I've got everybody in the mix right now.”

He has applied for another WIIA grant and is hoping to hear back by the end of this year. He included a stack of letters from residents. The town does have four water districts, two each on the northeast and northwest side of town, and Hyde is pursuing a District 5 in the heart of Bethany, where 52 homes have no water at all.

The town had pursued District 5 in 2018 and a USDA grant of $16.5 million. It was looking hopeful, and then COVID came along, everything shut down, and “prices went through the roof,” Hyde said. That project shot up in price, with the cheapest route using plastic piping for a total of $21.5 million.  The grant was still $5 million short. 

Several politicians have reached out in support of Bethany, and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney put in for federal appropriations budget funding. Again, it seems as though timing and circumstances aren’t exactly on Bethany’s side.

Since Congress hasn’t been taking care of much business, that budget vote still remains in the to-do pile, Hyde said.

“You know how confused the federal government's been with getting rid of McCarthy and all that. They've been really confused and have lost sight of the American citizens. So they haven't even voted on the budget yet,” he said. “So we don't know if we'll even get any federal appropriations money. Bethany is literally caught between a rock and a hard place. 

I mean, if we get any funding, you know, when we get all the paperwork for that done, whichever route we go, we can't start digging until probably summertime, when we do the bid process. Award the bid, then order the material, and they start digging, it’s probably going to be summer. And the water district is going to take 12 to 18 months to complete,” he said. “So we're looking at 2025-26 when people actually have water at the tap. So how long is the drought going to last? It’s a dilemma.”

He knows all about having to live without water and can empathize all day long with his residents, but in the meantime, Hyde is trying to get something done to help. Once that tanker is empty, it will go to Genesee County for a refill, and that can keep happening for at least the next 30 days, he said. 

The state Office of Emergency Management has sent it on loan for 30 days, with the possibility of an extension. He’s not sure who will pay the tab for the water and isn’t as concerned about that right now.

“We’re going to help the residents first, and then worry about that later, how we’re going to work this out,” he said. “There’s got to be an amicable way to work this out. My goal is to get all the logistics worked out by tomorrow afternoon, so those people in their homes on Thanksgiving can have water.”

If you’re a Bethany resident without water and need to get on his list or have a donation of water, call Hyde at 585-356-2658.


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