Water plan moving forward

Another step in getting a regional water district up and running will be taken in March, if the communities involved agree to support a grant application for $400,000.

Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation officials continued their road show of presentations Wednesday at a meeting of the Dunkirk Common Council Eco-nomic Development Committee, making a pitch for support of a resolution that would make the city the lead applicant for an Effi-ciency Implementation Grant from the state.

CBRDC?Executive Director Kathy Tampio said progress is being made on an implementation plan. Eric Wies from the firm of Clark Patterson Lee was also on hand, along with CBRDC Chairman Dan Schrantz.

Wies said a meeting has been held with possible beneficiaries of a regional water district.

“Basically the long-term goal here is a communitywide project that could help reduce the overall costs for all the municipalities,” he explained. “The County Health Department did a study a few years back and they identified over $50 million of improvements required. … Dunkirk is already going through $17 million.”

Wies said funding sources were present but additional funds were needed for planning purposes. Meetings are being held with water operators in the municipalities to see what their needs are.

“The current game plan is the city of Dunkirk would be the primary water supplier for the area, basically Hanover to the town of Portland. … We see Dunkirk as being the primary water provider with a backup connection to the Erie County Water Authority, which is really already there,” Wies stated. “So we really just need to get the parts and pieces out to the municipalities.”

Wies said improvements are needed to existing lines.

“The long-term goal here is we have $40 million and how do we spread the costs out to those municipalities with all these municipalities seeing a benefit,” he added. “Really, it’s bringing to the table and reiterating the concerns the Department of Health brought up. … The hope is we can show there is long-term cost savings to these municipalities.”

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak asked what would be involved with the city taking the lead.

Tampio explained the city should take the lead because it will be “the linchpin for this whole regional plan, regional water. You are the water supplier and are currently the supplier for many of the communities around here. … You are the critical piece. … You have the wherewithal to administer the grant.”

Tampio said she would take care of most of the work helping the city handle the grant requirements but the city would be the agency in charge. A $40,000 match requirement in the grant had Kiyak concerned.

Dunkirk Development Director Neratko said other funds are available to meet the match but Kiyak asked if the sources don’t come through what would happen. Tampio said it would be shared equally among the seven communities but it would be up to the communities and the board. Kiyak had a problem with that, pointing out the city has a $17 million investment in its water facilities.

“I don’t believe that the city should have to be a part of this $40,000 should it come down to us having to foot that bill,” Kiyak stated. “Or if we did, it be a nominal amount compared to the other six that are truly receiving the benefits of what we have invested and are continuing to invest, especially when they do enjoy the benefit of our plant. We will be helping them build their businesses because now they’ll have water and be able to attract new business. So again, with us having the commodity, we are offering so much more. I think that we’re already paying a lot for what we have.”

Neratko was not in agreement.

“I disagree 100 percent with that. I believe it’s extremely short sighted,” he stated. “For one, I think if you go to any of these communities, the sentiment in the communities is they don’t want to give up their water supply either.”

Neratko added people are skeptical but the project would help everyone for years to come.

“I just think it’s a very positive investment. I just think it’s shortsighted not to want to be part of a regional group,” he added. “If you help business in Brocton, really the city of Dunkirk is the hub for the northern Chautauqua area. If you help a business in those areas it has residual impact in those areas, especially the city of Dunkirk.”

Kiyak said she wanted to be part of the group but the city is already making a huge investment in its water plant and added other communities have an incentive to come to Dunkirk for water.

“We have an incentive being the water provider for the entire area. There’s a lot of funds that come from that,” Neratko replied. ” … I think right now the city is getting a decent deal.”

Kiyak responded there were no treatment plants in the other municipalities but was told some do have plants.

Wies said the city’s $17 million is tied to its current users but a regional operation would spread the costs before discussion turned to the advantage to the city of being the lead applicant, including being able to opt out.

Tampio pointed out there is no cost to the city for the grant application and the resolution could be changed to meet concerns of the city. Wies said more meetings are planned along with more work on funding, with individual municipalities applying for their own grants.

“We still haven’t figured out if this is going to be a district or some sort of non-profit corporation. Is it going to be the city of Dunkirk being the lead for everything then ultimately developing the operational plan?” Wies asked.

Kiyak asked if another study would be needed.

“We’re not doing any big written report here at the end. This is some cost estimates, some concept plans,” Wies replied. “The biggest part is getting the municipalities together to sign agreements that say here’s our cost share, here’s our rates, here’s what’s in it for me.”

Tampio pointed out the advantages of spreading costs over a regional system.

“Once we’re a regional system where everything is combined, refinanced at lower rates, substantial savings, and then the water rates themselves could be conceivably cut in half, at least, and that’s part of the operation plan they’re working on right now,” she said. “You’d have a savings to everyone. The city’s customers, all the other municipalities’ customers and all the industrial users we have and the large users … have a real stake in seeing some savings and cutting their costs so they can stay in this area and keep the jobs that we have.”

The CBRDC meets again Feb. 14 at the White Inn in Fredonia.

“It all comes down to the numbers and what’s the benefit for each community, that’s the bottom line here,” Tampio stated. “We wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t intending on saving money.”

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