Supervisor gives update on water project

BROCTON – More incentive for getting a regional water project up and running was discussed at Wednesday’s Portland Town Council meeting.

Town Supervisor and Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation Chairman Dan Schrantz explained that even though one of the stumbling blocks has been exactly how the project would be designed, a “north county regional plan would mean everyone pays the same rate. Clark Patterson Lee, the engineers, only had a certain amount of money to work under so we asked them to see if this project was feasible, and told them to find the most cost effective way possible.”

“We even have our own stumbling blocks in Brocton and Portland, and some don’t want to give up their water plants, but we need to ask ourselves ‘what’s the best way to bring water to everyone equitably?’ We need to get together and start working together. Who benefits when we don’t stand together?”

John Runkle, the Chautauqua County legislator who now represents Portland, was in attendance Wednesday and asked the supervisor, “In a perfect world, what would Portland like to see happen with this?”

“As a township, we’re a buyer of water. We don’t make the water; we purchase it from Brocton and Dunkirk. If Brocton upgrades to the point that suddenly Town of Portland water customers’ rates go so high, people are going to be asking for a cheaper alternative,” replied Schrantz.

Since Erie County was listed as a backup in the preliminary drawings of the project, Diane Hofner, who attended the meeting on other matters, asked if it was concrete that Dunkirk would be sole provider of water resources, and if so, “What would happen if Dunkirk decided to pull out of the project?”

“Erie County was only listed as a backup and we could still have a regional project together, along with all of the municipalities that make up a regional system. There would still be Brocton, Fredonia, or we could even look at going Westfield’s direction, too. They have a reservoir and a plant. With the recent announcement of a plant closure in Fredonia, that’s going to put a big hurt on Fredonia itself. If we were one regional system, we would all absorb that, not just them by themselves.”

Similarly, the supervisor explained, the water line upgrade and relining of clear well tanks for Brocton’s water infrastructure wouldn’t fall 100 percent on Brocton’s shoulders if a regional system were established.

He added, “With the state behind this 100 percent, they’re looking for us to do this as a regional project. I can certainly understand some are hesitant and don’t want an extra layer of government, and I don’t want that either. We have enough layers. Let’s get together and try to do this together. We need to get infrastructure if we’re ever going to get business here. Water is one of the biggest ingredients.”

A public meeting for the regional water project was held Thursday, after which Schrantz seemed hopeful there would be a decision. The next meeting on the project will take place next month, and the supervisor noted, “Decisions will have to be made soon to determine which way we’re going to proceed. Everyone involved has about a month to really look things over, digest it and make a decision.”

Mrs. Hofner added, “I would like to see a regional project take shape, and in my opinion, the water producer with good control over piping, testing, upgrades, etc. should be the lead. I would recommend that everyone get on board with this. And with the recent plant closing announcement, all the more reason why we have to protect our lakefront, environment and tourism.”

The council will reconvene on May 14 at 7 p.m.