Considers Water Rate Increase

By Jann Wiswall

No members of the community were present to comment on two public hearings held during the Village of Ellicottville’s board meeting on Monday, Dec. 8.

As a result, the board approved Local Law #3 for Flood Damage Prevention as authorized by the New York State Constitution, Article IX, Section 2, and the state’s Environmental Conservation Law, Article 36. This action was required in order to make Ellicottville’s new flood plain maps official.

The board also approved a resolution to issue $4.9 million in bonds to cover the cost of the new wastewater treatment plant, which is required under a consent order by the state. The 30-year bond will be paid for over 30 years at $180,000 (or more) per year by municipal sewer customers in the Town and Village of Ellicottville and by WestMont Ridge customers whose properties are located in Mansfield. The board has not yet discussed a fee structure for individual customers.

Water Revenues Needed

Nussbaumer & Clark engineer Jim Campolong reported to the board that the village’s water infrastructure repair fund is “woefully underfunded,” explaining that current water billing rates are only covering the costs of providing service. He felt that the board will need to look at another water rate increase in order to generate the substantial revenues needed for long-term repairs. He said there are approximately 7,500 feet of “high priority” water lines in the queue for repair at a cost of $50-$100 per foot.

Currently, water bills are bringing in just $20,000 a year toward repairs, he said, which, by his calculations, would fund the repair of 250-500 feet of waterlines.

Campolong felt that it will take far too long to make repairs at that rate. As a result, he gave the board some billing options based on an “arbitrary” revenue goal of $50,000 per year. Options ranged from adding a capital improvement fee on customer water bills to raising rates at various levels.

Board member Greg Cappelli commented that “we have to have a sense of what the village really needs” as far as revenues go before looking for billing strategies. He wanted to know what a realistic revenue goal would be.

Village Engineer Mike Smith, who also serves as CEO of Nussbaumer & Clarke, agreed that his team would do more precise forecasting and propose a revenue goal and billing plan that would take the board through the next several years.

DPW Status Report

Mayor Charlie Coolidge said that letters have been sent to many homeowners in the Town of Ellicottville asking for prompt access to their homes in order to install water meters. Most are vacation homeowners. Coolidge stated that the village clerk has begun scheduling installation over the next several weeks as owners plan to be in town and available over the holidays.

Madison Street resident Jack Rogan was on hand at the meeting to get an update on water quality issues in his and neighbors’ homes. Department of Public Works head Harold Morton reported that all labor associated with replacing the water lines along Madison has been completed. Once the County Health Department approves water samples (hopefully in a few days), the line can be hooked up. Rogan asked to be informed on the day the line is connected so he can change his home’s water filters and be assured that the line repairs solved the problem.

Board member Bob Brogcinski asked Morton to address an issue at the entrance to Tips Up restaurant, where water is pooling and freezing at the base of the handicapped access ramp. Morton said he will investigate.

Engineering Report

Smith reported that the town of Ellicottville’s East Tank is up and running and that repairs to the lightning-damaged wastewater treatment plant’s ultraviolet disinfection treatment system have been completed. Repairs were covered by insurance.

Smith said that he had received a proposal from a solar firm to install panels to help power the wastewater treatment plant and has gone back to the firm to ask it to sharpen its pencil.

“There is a cost savings,” he said, “but not as much as I expected.”

Smith also said that he will be asking for a short extension of his deadline to complete engineering drawings for the wastewater treatment plant. Construction is set to begin in the spring.

The next meeting of the village board will be held on Monday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Village/Town Hall.