Keefe explains village position on water

MAYVILLE – The Village of Fredonia is still not on board with Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation’s plans for a proposed north county water district.

Stephen Keefe, Fredonia mayor, asked the Chautauqua County Legislature to table the creation of a county water agency at Wednesday night’s legislature meeting in Mayville.

“We ask that you postpone the formation of the agency which proposes rates much higher than the city (Dunkirk) or village (Fredonia) currently charge,” Keefe said.

Legislators requested County Attorney Stephen Abdella explain the role of the agency, which would consist of three county legislators and nine elected officials representing municipalities to be included in Phase 1 of the proposed water supply program.

“Under county law, the first step in the process of establishing water and sewer districts is to create the water agency,” Abdella said.

Keefe also explained why Fredonia has not joined with other municipalities to be a part of the regional district.

“It started to move very quickly,” Keefe said. “We were approached to put together a resolution, and by putting together a resolution, what they were asking is that we would adopt the Chadwick Bay plan.”

Chadwick Bay’s plan would force Fredonia’s water plant to close and keeping it open “is in the best interest of the village of Fredonia and our region,” Keefe said.

Fredonia also provides water to the town of Pomfret.

“I want to make it clear. We are not opposed to a regional water district. We are opposed to this design,” Keefe said. “The engineer’s plans submitted by Clark Patterson Lee requires the closing of the Fredonia water plant which the village board is unanimously opposed to.”

County Executive-elect Vince Horrigan said, “We’re in a situation where, if we do not create the agency, we do not have a vehicle to accept the grant funding.”

Horrigan stressed the importance of grants in order to further explore how the proposed district will come together. He also noted that he was aware of Fredonia’s concerns and said he would be meeting with the village board.

“Grant monies may be available for a substantial portion. This agency is a recommending body only,” Abdella added.

Dunkirk has the highest population of any involved municipality and it was recently announced the city’s share of a $4 million state grant for capital projects is $360,000.

The city’s involvement is “essential,” according to Kathy Tampio, executive director of the corporation. “It’s what we call ‘the hub’ of the system.”

Keefe cited concerns about emergency scenarios and said Fredonia and Dunkirk currently cooperate together to supply each other with water in those cases.

Within the proposed regional water district, water would be supplied by the Erie County Water Authority along with Erie, PA.

“That’s what got my attention in the beginning,” Keefe said. “We would have to say ‘yes’ blindly, without receiving any plans, without any blueprints, without anything proposed. We weren’t about to close down our water plant.”

Before considering potential designs or plans, the creation of the water agency is the first step, Abdella said.

“I support this resolution (to create an agency), understanding there are still questions to be asked, questions to be answered and other options to be considered, possibly, in the future,” Horrigan said.

Sixteen other legislators agreed with Horrigan, while four disagreed and the decision to create a Chautauqua County Water Agency was approved.

The incoming legislature will review the makeup of the agency’s membership as later phases of the project are developed. Also, it will be possible for the Village of Fredonia to join the regional water district in the future if they choose to do so.

Chadwick Bay and the Department of Health and Human Services cooperated in the study of water supply needs in northern Chautauqua County and identified the potential development of a Chadwick Bay regional water supply program, presented to the legislature in August.

Sixteen other legislators agreed with Horrigan, while four disagreed and the decision to create a Chautauqua County Water Agency was approved.

Those who agreed with Horrigan and voted in favor of the Chautauqua County Water Agency included Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; Rod Rogers, D- Forestville; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Mark Tarbrake, R- Ellicott; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; Timothy Hoyer, D-Jamestown; Charles Nazzaro, D- Jamestown; PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood; Jay Gould, R-Ashville; Fred Croscut, R- Findley Lake; John Hemmer, R-Westfield; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia.

Those who voted to table the creation of the agency included William Coughlin, D- Fredonia; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; and Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown.

Absent legislators included George Borrello, R-Irving; Rob Stewart, R-Ellington; Victoria James, D-Jamestown; and Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton.

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