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Carl Hyde

In the midst of drought, Bethany gets a splash of good news with $5M grant

By Joanne Beck
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
2023 File Photo of Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. reviewing the town's water districts, including the latest Water District 5, which will be a go, thanks to the $5 million WIIA grant awarded to the town. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Tuesday afternoon was unexpectedly busy and gleeful for Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr.

And while still being embroiled in town residents’ plight of dry wells and being in need of daily water supplies, he found something to smile about, he says.

“We’re on the list,” he said about the town’s placement on the state’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Award approvals. “My phone’s been ringing off the hook. I heard from Steve Hawley and J.W. Cook from the governor’s office. He called to say congratulations, you got your grant. I’m very happy.”

Bethany was approved for a $5 million WIIA grant for its Water District 5. 

The town has been enduring dozens of dry wells for home, business and farm owners the last several weeks, with one large farm hauling 60,000 gallons of water a day and residents making weekly treks for water to sustain their household needs. A tanker from the state Office of Emergency Management and generous donations from private companies have helped fill the gap as the town anxiously waited for news about a second application for the grant.

The first application was denied, and town officials submitted a second one earlier this year, anticipating to hear back by the end of December. Water District 5 runs north to Route 20 and includes 440 residential properties. 

Two-thirds of town residents will have public water by the time the district is completed, and then District 6 will be next. That will require a survey to find out if those residents are in favor of a water district, he said, because at least 51 percent will need to be on board with a yes for it to proceed.

“I’ve got a lot of paperwork to do before it goes out to bid. And they’ve got to review the bids when they come back. So, with any luck, our word, according to the engineers, my discussion with the engineering firm is our goal is to start digging by August … for a completion 16 to 18 months after that.

He notified board members, who were “ecstatic,” and let some businesses and farmers know about the grant. 

“They understand it’s a long process, but at least it’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. 

The town has already received a low-interest (2 percent) USDA loan of $16.5 million to be paid back over 38 years by property owners, and the $5 million is a grant with no pay-back strings attached. There will have to be budget amendments due to the price adjustments of a previously lower-cost project before COVID came along and caused delays and price increases, he said. 

But that won’t undermine his momentary good spirits and the news that residents should celebrate, he said.

“It’s a good thing, it’s a bright spot in our dark time here in this drought,” he said. “But it’s not gonna save us at the moment.”

Residents are still showing up at the town hall for twice-weekly water fills, at the rate of 2,000 gallons every two hours. Hyde estimated that the 6,700-gallon tanker might be empty again by Thursday, which will be the second time so far. Genesee County has been transporting the tanker for refills. 

Two other Genesee County municipalities were also on the list for awards:

  • The Town of Le Roy was on the list for a $5 million WIIA grant for Water District 12. Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz was not available for comment late Tuesday afternoon.
  • Genesee County was also listed for a $30 million bond for its Phase 3 water project. County Manager Matt Landers was not available for comment late Tuesday afternoon.


Paper plates and plasticware: modern day life without running water

By Joanne Beck

You just bought your first house, which has a 16-foot well, and that works sufficiently for your family and your 250-head dairy farm for a few years. Then in 2007, the well goes dry.

So you drill it out and go down 65 feet and hit water. You’re good again, until 2013, when the well goes dry again.

Then you have to go down 125 feet at a cost of $75 per foot. You strike water and are good again, but only for another five years. In 2018 the well goes dry permanently.

That happened to Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde.

“So my wife and I went for one year without water,” he said. “I had to go buy a 250-gallon water tank, and had to go buy a trailer to put it on to haul it and drive it to either Pavilion or Stafford to fill it up and back it up in my yard to my well.”

The well sucked up that water into the house and used it just for the toilets. Additional water was needed for drinking.

One’s lifestyle most definitely changes without running water, he said. You microwave your meals, eat on paper plates and use plastic cutlery. Showers are taken at obliging family members’ homes, and dirty clothes are taken care of at a laundromat.

There’s no turning on the tap, hopping in the shower or taking anything for granted when it comes to a steady stream of that liquid gold labeled H2O.

The Hydes tracked their water-related expenses and spent $2,200 in one year. They are now on public water and pay $40 per quarter. They have walked the walk and can empathize with the town residents who are now wrestling with the effects of an excessively parched Mother Nature.

Out of 665 households, some 350 to 400 “may have water,” Hyde said, and at least 100 do not, plus some dairy farms and businesses. He has applied a second time for a state Water Infrastructure Improvement grant and is anxiously waiting to hear back about approval or denial.

There is another option — a USDA loan of $5 million at 3.1 percent interest to shore up a previously obtained $16.5 million grant to meet a new project total of $21.5 million for District 5. One thing’s for sure, though, he said.

“That’s going to raise the cost for public water,” Hyde said.

A straw poll would be taken of the 400 District 5 residents, and 51 percent have to say yes for it to be approved. Yes would mean they get public water, but it would also mean paying more due to the increased project cost and paying off that $5 million plus interest over 30 years.

On the other hand, there’s the option of doing nothing and having no water at all. That’s an existence Hyde does not wish on anyone. 

“Until you live that ugly (experience), you don’t know. I’m not saying my house is a mansion or anything, but, you know, even a $100,000 house is great, but when you have no water, you can’t sell it; it’s worthless,” he said. “And life is miserable.” 

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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