Interim operator hired for Fredonia water plant

The Village of Fredonia Board of Trustees hired an interim operator in charge for its water treatment facility.

At a special meeting held Tuesday night, a resolution was approved to hire Chris Surma as acting chief operator at an hourly rate of $40 per hour with no other benefits. According to a proposal submitted by Surma, he expects to complete the necessary work to fulfill the job duties in about 30 hours per week.

Surma is the owner of Enviroteknix, which he began in 1991. In his proposal, he said he is also currently the 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. shift operator in charge at the Dunkirk water plant and is a drinking water plant operator in charge for a Tim Horton’s water plant in Sardinia, a facility at WestPort mobile home park in Westfield, Erie Road mobile home park in Portland, a school district in East Aurora and Northtown apartment complex in Holland, NY.

He said he runs the operations at each location via cell phone and computer contact with an operator on site and its owners, “with visits to them at least bi-monthly and when one has an issue that will arise. Our techs are there more frequently.”

In the proposal, Surma said he would apply the same resources to manage the village of Fredonia water treatment plant. He is familiar with the plant as a contractor handling “all of its drinking water analyses for over 10 years” and said he knows the current crew of workers at the plant.

“I know the guys at the plant pretty well and I think they’ll catch on to the team effort that I’d like to bring to the table, which is certainly needed there currently being short a very experienced local plant operator,” he said in the proposal letter.

Surma said he possesses water operator and training licensing and said his “company has grown to include two water operator trainees/field technicians and a 1A wastewater operator and two 1B wastewater operators.”

Currently the plant is also being required to come into compliance with operating requirements from the state and county. The violations were outlined in the OBSERVER on Jan. 8 and included installation of backflow protections and insufficient amount of water storage.

At that time, Mayor Stephen Keefe said Lancaster’s replacement may be someone operating in the capacity of a consultant as well as operator.

“We’re looking at hiring on a temporary basis right now. We’d like to have someone who can run the plant but also take a look at the plant and see what we can do to upgrade,” he said at the time.

Surma’s letter stated, “… achieving compliance with the (state water authorities) would be a welcomed challenge” and said he can get “a feel for the tasks at hand to get the facility into compliance” within a few weeks. The appointment comes after longtime water treatment plant Chief Operator Rob Lancaster retired in late December, following a large unauthorized and unexpected purchase of water from the city of Dunkirk for over three months.

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