Some changes may be seen in regional water district plan

The Fredonia Village Board may have declined to support the now-successful grant writing process for the northern county’s regional water district, but that does not mean the village has been written off from having its concerns addressed.

Chadwick Bay Regional Develop-ment Corp. Executive Director Kathy Tampio told the OBSERVER Clark Patterson Lee engineers will present two additional plans to the newly formed water agency, both of which will incorporate concerns Fredonia had with the initial plan.

“At the first county water agency meeting (in February), we directed the engineer toward … going back and drawing up several plans and presenting them to find out which direction members of the agency want to take,” Tampio said. “The first option will be the one they found having the most cost savings and the most feasible, which was having the city of Dunkirk as the primary source, but now we’re going to include options that will include Dunkirk and Fredonia; and then Dunkirk, Fredonia and Brocton.”

The initial plan would likely close Fredonia’s water filtration plant, which is something Mayor Stephen Keefe is not willing to accept without concrete evidence as to how its closure would benefit the district.

“We brought up at the meeting that we should consider keeping Fredonia, Brocton and Dunkirk as producers of water for the district, and that seemed to receive some positive feedback,” Keefe said. “I think the towns would be in favor of that if we can keep water prices reasonable.”

The mayor made his intentions for the district clear at the meeting.

“I’d like to see Fredonia’s water system be a part of the regional water system, as well as the possibility of the Brocton water system being a part of it,” he stated. “I think we have looked at it kind of narrowly, incorporating Erie County and Dunkirk as our sole suppliers of water.

“I think we’re missing some vital assets from the ridge that we could provide gravity-fed water at a reasonable cost. It could be an asset to this type of project. I don’t think it’s been given a fair vision and fairly looked at.”

Fredonia was initially not going to have a seat on the water agency due to its lack of support. However, that changed once Vince Horrigan became county executive this year.

“He’s specifically been reaching out to the big players, namely Dunkirk and Fredonia, as well as the other Chadwick Bay members,” Tampio explained. “He brought us all together and we had a couple meetings and we’re discussing how we can work this out together and include Fredonia.”

“We want to turn this into a collaborative effort and we don’t want to see an adversarial relationship develop with Fredonia, so we’re trying to include everybody and that’s the whole purpose of the system,” she added.

Keefe explained why he believes Fredonia’s filtration plant is an asset to a regional plan.

“It would keep gravity in the system, since our system gets water coming off the ridge. We would still be able to deliver water with a gravity feed instead of using electricity. Rather than pump all the water up the ridge, why not let the water flow down through gravity?” he said. “We’re going to continue to make upgrades (mandated by the health department) to the plant and make sure it can supply the water needed and we’re looking at more connections with Dunkirk so we can be a regional supplier.”

He added the plant provides a revenue stream to support the infrastructure, which would be lost if the plant closed.

“We have an obligation to our water users to give them the lowest cost for water,” he said. “I suspect (closing the plant) would triple our water rate by the time you looked at all the different aspects of paying for the new system.”

While Keefe is adamant the long-term plan is to close down all water sources in the district and rely heavily on Erie County water alone, Tampio explained that is not the case.

“The draft plan the engineers were developing really only envisioned Erie County Water Authority as an emergency backup water service, not as the sole supplier for the district,” she said. “I don’t know where the mayor got that impression and we’ve tried to explain to him that’s not the case, but he still insisted on stating that, so we’re hoping that gets cleared up.”

Both Tampio and Keefe summed up by saying every municipality, including Fredonia, is in favor of regional water, but there are differing routes being seen to reach the end goal.

“Nobody can be greedy in this system; everybody has got to be fair and equitable to the people that are using the water,” Keefe said. “We have to have a fair rate for everyone.”

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