By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Ellicottville’s board had a busy night Wednesday, April 23, taking several critical steps to get the East Tank project on track to begin construction in June.

Town Engineer Mark Alianello led the board through a number of tasks. The first was to complete the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR).

Alianello explained that there were three points in the SEQR that needed explanation or further documentation. One related to the question asking if the project would impact water supplies. Because this project is intended to improve water pressure and supply, the answer was yes, but the impact was positive.

Another asked if the project will impact a historic area. Alianello discovered that the site is, indeed, in a historic area. As a result, Alianello asked the Department of Historic Preservation for a letter stating the project will not negatively impact the area’s historic significance. The letter was received and is now part of the SEQR documentation.

The third question related to drainage. Alianello said his firm is following the Department of Environmental Conservation’s manual for drainage requirements, which should meet the needs of the SEQR.

With these issues resolved, the board approved a SEQR resolution stating that there will not be a significant environmental impact from the project.

Another issue brought to the board’s attention is that final plans require some additional easement space along the roadway to the tank site. This easement is on private property and makes the rest of that property essentially unusable. The town will need to purchase the property. An offer will be prepared after the land is surveyed and appraised. The board authorized Alianello to get that work started.

Next up was the issue of financing the $1.4 million East Tank project. The first step was for the board to approve a joint agreement with the Village of Ellicottville. The village board approved the agreement at its meeting last week.

Under the joint agreement, the village will be responsible for 25 percent of the cost. The Towns of Mansfield and Great Valley will each be responsible for less than 2.5 percent, since only the WestMont Ridge (in Mansfield) and Snow Pine (in Great Valley) communities are affected. The Town of Ellicottville will be responsible for the balance.

The town’s bond counsel has identified a number of available bonding options at various interest rates for various lengths of time to fund the project. The town will have responsibility for calculating and collecting payments from each municipality, but each municipality will decide how to collect the funds from its residents. The Town of Ellicottville has been advised to establish a “benefit tax” based on assessed property values.

Ongoing maintenance is another issue. Alianello talked with Village Engineer Mike Smith about how to budget for these needs. They determined that the town must establish a dedicated repair reserve fund and that the village and town likely would share that cost.

Finally, the board agreed to hold a public hearing at its May 21 meeting asking to public to approve a resolution to consider $1.4 million in serial bonds to fund the project. Assuming approval, Alianello will advertise for bids and a special board meeting will be scheduled to open and review the bids. He expects construction to begin in June and completed by December.

In other business, Town Supervisor John Burrell said the State Department of Transportation plans to repair the Crowley Creek bridge on Route 219 in 2016. The DOT consulted with Burrell and other Ellicottville leaders on the best time to start construction, which will require all but one lane of 219 to be closed for two to three months. The DOT was advised to schedule its work during April and May to avoid disrupting visitors’ travel to Ellicottville’s many festivals during the rest of the year.

Burrell also reported the county legislature has not been supportive of the proposed Scenic Byway extension from Springville to Ellicottville and back to Erie County through Ashford, primarily because it would prohibit erection of new billboards. The Town and Village of Ellicottville and Ashford support the proposal and already have or plan to institute zoning restricting billboards.

Burrell has written letters on behalf of all three municipalities to their three legislative representatives asking them to fight for the byway, and he intends to continue to advocate for it at several upcoming legislative meetings.

The board approved Burrell’s request to purchase new computer hardware and software. The low bidder came in well under what was budgeted for the equipment.

The board also approved a motion to allow the Ellicottville Police Department to form an association enabling them to work together on issues of mutual concern and to approach management as a group.

In addition, Board Member Ken Hinman reported that the Ellicottville/Great Valley (EVGV) Trail Committee met with representatives of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) officials (a state DOT funding authority) to discuss the trail and get input on what changes could be made to the trail and the grant application to accommodate their concerns. The committee also is asking area residents to sign petitions and send letters of support to send along with the TAP application, which is due June 11. (See EVGV Trail story on cover.)

The next meeting of the town board, and the public hearing on the bond resolution, will be held on May 21 at 6 p.m. at the Village/Town Hall.