Fredonia continues its questioning of water district

The Fredonia Village Board has one last chance regarding a resolution that would express its support for the possible creation of a regional water district in northern Chautauqua County.

After Monday night’s board meeting, the resolution continued to sit tabled as the future of the water filtration plant dominated the debate. The filtration plant would more than likely close due to very little need for it in a regional district.

The resolution must be passed by Aug. 12, since that is the application deadline for a grant for the project. That date is also the next regular board meeting, meaning there is only one meeting left at which Fredonia can consider passing the resolution.

Rick Henry, an engineer working with the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation on the project, was on hand during the workshop to discuss Fredonia’s preliminary cost estimates and savings benefits if they were to participate in the water district. Henry said the Fredonia plant does not produce enough water for it to be a viable option.

“To keep a second plant that doesn’t have the capacity for redundancy in place doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” he said. “Fredonia can’t be the redundant water supply because they can’t supply all the water to the region. It’s supplemental water, at best. Take all your costs that you currently have, add that in to the overall cost of the program, plus the cost of operating the treatment plant and all costs go up.”

Patrick Brennan, the lead consultant on the project, stressed to the board that they are only considering a resolution expressing support for the county to act as sole grant seeker for the $38 million project, not the project itself.

“I’ve heard the conversation and you are all asking the right questions,” he said. “I certainly would hope that you would support the resolution to allow the county to at least submit the application. It is not encumbering you financially at all to allow us to move forward through the Chadwick Bay group.”

The board, however, did see the resolution as binding for them, in a sense.

“I have a problem supporting a resolution for a grant application that we haven’t seen and probably won’t see,” Trustee Janel Subjack said. “I don’t know what I’m committing the village to.”

“I think the serious nature of asking the village board to endorse an application, which is going to ask that the Fredonia water system be closed, is a serious question for the board to consider,” Town Attorney Samuel Drayo Jr. said. “We pass that resolution, we’re endorsing a plan to close our Fredonia water works.”

Brennan disagreed with Drayo’s perspective and cited a burdensome cost for the County Health Department’s recommended upgrades to the treatment facility as a possible incentive to eventually join the regional district.

“We’re talking about $850,000 of expenses that will continue to exist if the treatment plant continues to run,” Henry said. “That will go away if the treatment plant goes away.”

“I’m still leery of closing the treatment plant,” Trustee Susan Mackay said. “The debt on that plant will be picked up by the village residents if it were to close. I’d like to know what is it going to cost us to decommission it and that could be an enormous amount. Besides, our not passing the resolution is not going to prohibit the region from going ahead with that application. Recognizing there may be some penalties, we can always join in later.”

Mackay went on to say that with the expected upgrades to the water treatment plant, which are already under way and must be addressed in the near future due to a strict schedule by the health department, a decommissioning of that plant would result in wasted money.

“I wish them well, but I’m not real comfortable with endorsing or authorizing the village to go forward with this,” she said. “I think that’s the way the rest of the board is leaning, as well. They’ll have to show us some radical numbers regarding our projected savings and they couldn’t quite do that tonight. The estimates given to us were skewed, not on purpose, to show it as a better deal than it really is for us. We’ll have to sort those numbers out.”

Also during the meeting, the board accepted the resignation of a part-time police officer, Luke Johnson, effective July 13. Johnson is moving on to full-time employment with the Sheriff’s Office.

The board also rubber stamped the purchase of a new pickup truck for use by the streets department. The total cost of the vehicle is not to exceed $17,500. The current truck is falling apart, according to DPW Supervisor Jack Boland.

Trustee Joseph Cerrie presided over the meeting due to the absence of the mayor, who was unable to attend.

After the workshop portion of the meeting, the board entered into executive session to discuss personnel in the building inspector’s office.

The next village board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Trustees Room of the village hall.

Send comments to gfox@observertoday.com