Health Department urges city to lead regional cooperation

Despite a resistance to losing control, county health department officials encouraged the city of Dunkirk to be a leader for regionalized water.

County Public Health Engineer Paul Snyder and Health Department Director Christine Schuyler met with Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce, Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak, Water Department Chief Operator Bob Lawrie, City Public Works Director Tony Gugino and DPW Engineer Randy Woodbury Tuesday to discuss the presentation given at the recent North County Water Board meeting.

Schuyler said she would like to see Dunkirk lead the regional cooperation on this water project.

“In my role as public health director, I have a huge range of oversight so I have a view of what’s going on in the county from a lot of different angles. One of my biggest frustrations is the lack of actual, true collaborations in the county, not just water supply. We have got to stop doing this. Everyone’s agendas are going to have to be pushed aside and we are going to have to look at what is best for our community, and that means the county as a whole. … (The city of Dunkirk) is poised to be in an essential leadership position right now for this regional water supply. This is where you can really shine and be the leader that this city can be in the North County,” she said.

Snyder urged city officials to “get together and look beyond borders.”

He said based on the study, it is likely Dunkirk will be a provider of water for the region whether it is sold regionally or by the municipality.

He said although Dunkirk may not be dramatically impacted by going to a regional approach, other municipalities stand to save a great deal.

“Clark Patterson Lee broke (water rates) down for each municipality. It is not going to be that much of a change for the city of Dunkirk – your rates are already pretty affordable – but for the village of Brocton … if it were to complete their water plant upgrades and the town of Portland was to connect to a regional water system … their water rates could go up to as much as $20/1,000 gallons. So you can see how important it is for this project to get off the ground, not just for the city but for the county as a whole,” he said.

Snyder, who does plant inspections, said throughout the county – not just in the city – water treatment plants have not been well maintained in the past 30 years. He said the costs to maintain the status quo is not sustainable.

Kiyak asked if Snyder thought Fredonia’s plant should close. He responded that from an economic standpoint it makes sense, but that decision does not have to be made right away.

“I do think it would be a good idea to keep Fredonia on for an undetermined amount of time. … They did a huge capital project at their water plant in 2001 and 2002. Dunkirk, at this point right now, does not have the capacity to feed the entire region, so you need Fredonia’s plant right now. … I think Fredonia’s plant should be on board for a little bit so the regional water system can basically service customers. Without them we will not be able to do it,” he explained, adding the reservoir is the problem Fredonia will face in the future.

Gugino agreed maintaining Fredonia’s 2.2 million gallons per day (MGD) capacity is smart while the Dunkirk plant’s capacity is still at 6.5 MGD. He also mentioned that a lot of work has been done on the connection between Dunkirk and Fredonia’s systems.

Lawrie voiced his concern that it will be difficult to upgrade the water plant to 10 MGD with its small footprint.

Woodbury said there have been misconceptions about Dunkirk and the regional water system, such as the city pays a lot for water and that it intends to spike rates for other municipalities down the road.

Kiyak asked Snyder and Schuyler to visit other municipalities to clear up any lingering questions.

The North County Water Board will meet again on May 8 at 7 p.m. after the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the town of Sheridan.