Along with the political election coming up Nov. 6, some residents of the Town of Benton will be voting on another vital and practical matter — water. The extension of Benton’s Water District No. 1 south to the Torrey town line had been approved by petition of the residents in the proposed expansion earlier this year. However, just before the town board was to vote to enact the project, 15 residents of the proposed expansion area who objected to the current bid estimate of $1,032,000, up from $709,000 when it was proposed, submitted a petition to require a permissive referendum for the project. 

The 36 residents, some of whom are not Yates County voters, will now have to appear in person at the Benton Town Hall on Election Day, Nov. 6, to vote on the question. Unlike the petition, which required 51 percent of the residents to approve owning at least 51 percent of the total assessed value of the area in question, this referendum is a simple majority vote. It is separate from the election ballot, and no absentee ballot for the matter was permitted by the state.

This throws up in the air the plans the Town of Torrey approved this year to connect to the end of the Benton water line to create their own first water district, using the well water from Kashong in the Town of Geneva. Torrey was notified in September that the USDA has awarded their project a loan of $892,000 and grant of $ 684,000. Town Clerk Betty Daggett noted the original grant money they applied for was $500,000. “Yahoo for the increase!” says Daggett. “Finally a little ray of sunshine in the long dark tunnel,” she added, referring to the 21 years it has taken to reach approval since the Torrey district was first proposed. But all those plans now hang on 36 voters outside the town.