Proposal for separate agency upsets city council

A joint meeting of Dunkirk’s Common Council and Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation officials was filled with questions from council members.

A proposed resolution the County Legislature would take up at its October meeting was part of city officials’ concerns. The resolution would create a separate agency to oversee the proposed North County Water District and allow for borrowing to continue engineering studies.

Cathy Tampio is the CBRDC executive director and said the resolution was the next step in the process.

“The function of that agency will be the official body that will go over the proposed map plan and report for the regional system, as well as the financing options,” she explained.

The resolution has been prefiled for October, Tampio added, “but that does not mean it can’t be amended … we have the time to do that.”

Tampio then asked for input from city officials and got an earful.

Councilwomen Stephanie Kiyak and Stacy Szukala took the lead in expressing council’s concerns.

“The last time we all met as a group and asked for details on the plan we were basically told there were several plans … subject to change. So we reluctantly went along with that grant resolution, knowing that was what we were approving, contingent on plans to follow,” Kiyak began. “So in my mind creating an agency that’s going to oversee something that we have no solid plans on is kind of putting the cart before the horse.”

Consultant William Brennan said the agency needed to be created to make the necessary decisions but Kiyak wasn’t swayed.

“Until I know what the details are and say ‘yes, this makes sense for the rate users and the taxpayers of Dunkirk to be a part of your plan,’ there’s no way I’m going to consider creating a board that is going to oversee what that plan is going to be,” she stated.

Brennan replied that it requires money and engineering services to complete those tasks and the agency was needed to create a “funding stream.”

Szukala wanted to know why the current CBRDC group couldn’t continue with the task and Kiyak added the agency’s proposed makeup of elected officials could be subject to change by voters.

County Executive Greg Edwards agreed there have been conversations on the subject and discussed some of Dunkirk’s concerns.

“This is merely a mechanism necessary to have a body responsible to take the next necessary steps, which are one, to make sure the state will even allow this to go forward,” he said.

Edwards added the city could benefit from being in a district that would assume its current bills from the rebuild of its water distribution system and treatment plant, as would other entities in a district.

“You’re not committing dollars and you’re not committing your assets; you’re saying that we agree to be part of this decision-making body,” he said, adding that any bonding costs would eventually be paid by ratepayers in the district.

Szukala again claimed the agency would be doing the same thing as the CDRDC but Councilman Michael Michalski disagreed, saying the agency was the link to providing financing.

City Development Director Steve Neratko summed up the thoughts of most city officials.

“We were told all along that we would have negotiations, discussion regarding that process and then all of a sudden it appears we’ve decided that there will be a water district and that’s it. I know from talking to the council that we’re not all on board with that. … So that’s why I recommended to them when they talked to me, I don’t think we should go forward right now.”

After more talk on the same issues, Neratko said the city doesn’t know yet if it wants to part of a new district.

Town of Dunkirk Supervisor Richard Purol said he has been going to CBRDC meetings for a long time.

“It’s getting to the point right now where we’re not going to have any money to keep going with this stuff. There’s more and more people that are deciding not to stay in it. The city’s already said they don’t know if they’re going to pay the per capita next time. How are we supposed to operate with something like this?” Purol asked.

He added there’s only been one meeting where the city’s three CBRDC board members were all present.

“It’s not that you don’t have representatives that are able to come, they’re not here,” he continued. “When I go a meeting I go back to my board and I tell them what happened.”

Portland Supervisor Dan Schrantz said the west town of Dunkirk, Pomfret, Portland and Brocton have water needs to be met.

“Are we going to continue to buy water from the city of Dunkirk or do we all work together and rebuild the Brocton reservoir and buy water from Brocton?” he asked. “We’ve got two alternatives to look at too. What’s the most cost-effective way for our customers? We’d rather see regionalism and buy it all from Dunkirk, but maybe that’s not the best alternative.”

After further discussion the meeting adjourned.

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the need for an agency wasn’t part of the original presentation.

“If that was communicated sooner in the process it probably would have been helpful. I think the big contention we’re having right now is our understanding of a discussion taking place prior to a resolution listing the agency. One of the concerns I have is, and I’ve expressed this previously, we’re assessed more for our yearly dues because we’re the largest population, but we only hold one seat on an agency,” he stated, adding if he or a council member was added potential conflicts of interest could arise. “Again, from the beginning I’ve been a very vocal supporter of this project and I’m hoping we get everything worked out so we can keep moving forward.”

Send comments on this story to gsnyder@observertoday.com