Residents express irritation over district’s snail-like pace

“We’ve been waiting three years, and we haven’t heard anything.” Gene Tarnowski, Roberts Road resident

Roberts Road residents are growing increasingly frustrated with the fact that, despite the water project being started three years ago, there’s next to nothing to show for it — not even working water lines.

At the recent Dunkirk Town Board meeting, Roberts Road residents Gene and Jana Tarnowski approached the board during the public comment portion.

“We were just wondering — what’s going on with the city water?” Gene asked. “We’ve been waiting three years, and we haven’t heard anything.”

Town Supervisor Richard Purol stated that unfortunately, the ball is in the court of the U.S. Rural Development Administration. Even after getting everything done to the best of its ability, the RDA is reportedly having problems with the town’s water contract.

“After everything is all said and done and North County water is going to be in effect, and we go to the new water rates, we have that contract for 40 years,” Purol explained. “… I have contacted them — we have Municipal Solutions, who are the ones that made all the applications out for us. I mean, they want to know everything. They want to know what your minority neighborhoods are, even. They have thousands of questions that have to be answered, with paperwork going back and forth all the time.

“We thought we were all done. The thing that’s holding them up right now, and correct me if I’m wrong, is they want to know what we’re going to do for water shortages in case something happens in the city of Dunkirk. Well, what is anybody going to do if there’s a problem?

“They’ll use the water out of the water tank until there’s none left, but hopefully, they’d have it taken care of in a day or so. That’s where we’re held up right now. For some reason, they cannot get that through their head at the RDA that this is the way we’re going to be operating here. Everybody else in the North County is going to be doing the same thing. Brocton, Portland, Pomfret, Sheridan — they’re all going to be in the same boat.”

Gene asked if there was anything they could do to speed up the process — write a letter, perhaps? — to which Purol replied, “I wish there was.”

“I wish I could say it’ll be done tomorrow,” Purol continued. “There’s a map over there. … I’ve had that map for a year and a half, and that shows where all the water lines are going to go on Roberts Road. It doesn’t tell me what side of the road it’s going to go on, it doesn’t tell me where the hydrants are. It doesn’t tell me where the valves are. And we’re not going to know that until RDA gives us the money so the engineers can plot that out. … They’re not going to draw the map until they know they’re going to get the money from RDA.

“The bond didn’t come through, and that’s why we have to get the rest of this so we know how we’re going to pay that stuff back. That $1.5 million water project on Bennett Road — same thing. The RDA says, ‘You’re going to get ‘x’ amount of money for a loan, ‘x’ amount of money for a grant — then you get the loan money first. When that’s done, you get the grant money. Any money you don’t use goes back to them. I don’t make the rules. We talked about trying to get funding from two different sources — the RDA and EFC, and all that does is, if you get money from EFC, they say, ‘We’re taking the money from RDA away,’ because the RDA is not going to give you more money than you need. So we had to toss it out,” Purol stated.

Gene said that he couldn’t understand why the town was putting so much effort into the Bennett Road water project, when the people on Bennett Road had city water, but there are people on Route 60 that don’t have any, even after such a long period of time.

Purol contended that everyone in that water district didn’t have to be in favor of the project.

“When we first started with Roberts Road, there were a good portion of people that already had water. You could have said no to the whole project. All the neighbors, there wasn’t one person that said no, that I can remember, at that first meeting, that they all wanted this first waterline. That’s why it went through.

“We’ve been working diligently, trying to get that taken care of, but the idea is that we’d like to see it done, too, and it’s regrettable every time I run into my neighbors they all ask me the same thing: ‘Where’s my water?’ … I’ve been telling my neighbors, for the past two years, anyway, ‘It’s coming, it’s coming.’

“I don’t have a final date,” Purol sighed. “I don’t really know when it’s going to come. We do know that it takes time.”

Jana asked, “Are we ever going to get to a point where we’ve been taking so long that we’re going to have to start over again?”

Purol said no, most likely not, seeing at how it was a problem on the RDA’s end and not a delay caused by the town.

“It’s on (their) desk. It doesn’t expire. There’s nothing else holding us up. … It’s just waiting for final approval, that’s all. … I wish I could say that Roberts Road is going to be taken care of. I want a new water line. … I realize you don’t have any water, and I can sympathize with that. … I wish there was more I could do to say that’s going to happen. We’re working on it. I’m trying to keep everyone as informed as I possibly can, and … I’m not quitting until that water line is in the ground. I made a commitment that I will get that waterline in before I say goodbye,” Purol said with finality.