Several rounds of applause punctuated Monday evening's information meeting on the proposed North End Water District in the town of Pomfret.
Judging from the statements made prior to the applause, the vast majority of people in attendance at the LoGuidice Center will vote "yes" as Pomfret property owners take to the polls at town hall from noon to 8 p.m. today.
Reasons will vary for "yes" and "no" votes today. On one end, residents may feel the need is great for potable water, fire protection and continued growth down Route 60, or an increased value of their land.
OBSERVER?Photos by Michael Rukavina
Top: Engineer Rob Klavoon and Municipal Services Director Gerald Summe from Wendel Duchscherer, field questions during Monday evening’s informational meeting on the proposed North End Water District in the town of Pomfret.
On the other, the estimated costs associated with the project may simply be too great for their budgets.
Whatever the reason, Pomfret town board members hope everyone will vote today based on the accurate information they received throughout their meetings leading up to the information gathering Monday .
Rob Klavoon and Gerald Summe from Wendel Duchscherer, engineers who have been working on the project since its conception, led the large audience through a powerpoint presentation and answered dozens of questions for residents. Klavoon began his presentation by laying the ground work about the district and phase one in particular.
"By forming a water district that is the mechanism to be able to pay back on these improvement. That's why there is a need to form this north end water district," Klavoon began. "The reason we created such a large district is because of the regulatory permitting process. Every time you go through to try and form a water district you have permits needed from the local health department, the state DEC, the bonding company, and there are economical factors that come into creating such a water district."
Phase one was explained to include 54,000 feet of pipe covering 363 single family homes, or 68 percent of the single-family homes in the overall north end water district. Also included: 110 fire hydrants installed. Total cost for phase one would be about $4.5 million. One audience concern was the deficit shown in the map, plan and report of $1.4 million required for phase one.
"Let me be perfectly clear, the map, plan and report published by this town board caps out the project cost at $4.5 million. We can not spend one penny over that without going back before the public. We've also capped out, without water increases which are out of our control, the single family home charge which is $500 per year," Klavoon explained. "If the village of Fredonia three years from now raises their water rate $.15 I have no way of knowing that when I write the report today, that way it is an OK expense under the way that is written. That leaves use with $1.4 million deficit and we are fully aware that we are short money for this project and frankly, without the formation of this water district, we don't have any material to make an application for grant money or funding sources until we move forward with the water district. It is the first step in being able to fund this project move forward."
The tentative agreement moving forward on the phase one has Pomfret residents within the district paying 1.75 times the village rate which is $2.35 per thousand gallons used. Under the map, plan and report engineers estimate that an average single family homes uses 170 gallons per day, or $225 annually under the tentative agreement. The capital cost and operation and maintenance annual payment for residents receiving water in phase one would vary depending on the land use, with vacant land being charged $10 annually to commercial property being charged $395.
"My biggest concern is with the unfairness of the rates charged," McClenathan's Mobile Home Park Owner Jim Cripe said. "I will not pay these costs, those are going to get passed on, it's not going to come out of Jim Cripe's pocket, it's going to come out of my residents. They live in homes that vary in value from under $10,000 to $30,000 and they sit on a rented lot. By comparison, a home on Route 20 or on Webster can vary from $150,000 to $300,000 on large pieces of land. When you compare the means of those tenants, the little widow on a fixed income in McClenathan's Park is paying 55 percent as much as one of my contractors living on Webster Road in a $250,000 home. My number one issue has always been the unfairness, there's no fairness whatsoever in the rates."
Under the map, plan and report mobile homes would incur a $150 annual charged for capital costs and operation and maintenance.
"It's called a benefit district because that's what it is. If you live in a $400,000 home, a $100,000 home or a mobile home in your park, the word benefit strikes at me that that widow in your parks deserves safe potable water as much as the lady that lives in the million dollar mansion," Summe rebutted. "I'm passionate about this. Some of the advice going into this district came from me and I have for many years worked with people in manufactured home parks and eventually, maybe we all should have done a better job of explaining it, but I go on the basis of what it is worth to that person for a quality of life issue, not to worry that they're drinking water that's going to shorten their life or water that gets rust on their clothes ... or that she can't have her grandchildren come and get a drink of water, excuse me I'm showing passion because I have it, and it's a benefit district and I think this board has done their best to be fair to your residents."
Summe's statement led to one of the later rounds of applause created by the capacity audience. Throughout the meeting audience members also had questions concerning information they've received and from mailing they have read.
"I'm totaling confused," Jim Christy said. "This piece of paper I got in the mail, it says the cost of connecting to the Pomfret water main will be costly 'you will have to dig a trench to the road, under the road if necessary, connecting your home, disconnecting your well, waterline taps, tap fees, water meter enclosures, back flow prevention, shut off valves, pressure reduction valves ... these will cost several thousand dollars per home and are upfront costs that must be paid by the homeowners to their plumbing contractor.' And your telling me this is false information?"
"Let me address those," Klavoon answered. "Excavating a trench to the road, you will be responsible from our your house foundation to the right-a-way. Tunneling under the road if necessary? That is false and that will be part of the district. Connecting to the home at the right-a-way? Again that is false, that's responsibility of the contractor as paid for through the district. Disconnecting your well? You can still have your well in service, it just has to be disconnected from the plumbing in your house. Meter enclosure? Again that's false, that's responsibility of the district. Yes, there are some costs you will have to pay for as we get closer to construction but a lot of them are being paid for as part of the water district during its original construction."
Several audience members let their thoughts and feelings out over the course of the discussion. For Kathy Leone of North Road, the water lines and fire protection that would come along with the creation of the district and phase one was simply 22 years too late.
"I can appreciate everyone's concerns. My husband and I had a house fire 22 years ago and I wouldn't wish that on anybody. The home my husband grew up in was totally burned to the ground, my children were small, we had to jump off a two story roof, our dog died, we lost everything," she said. "I didn't even care about the material things when it happened, but to have our kids that close ... and the firemen did a wonderful job, they tried so hard but it's just a different aspect of it. It would have been wonderful if we had a fire hydrant on our road that night, but thank God my kids are Ok."
According to Klavoon, hydrants would be placed ever 500 feet as part of phase one. For others in the audience the reason to vote 'yes' seemed to be because of the quality or lack there of from their well, or because their well maintenance is just as costly. For those who questioned the district and were concerned about the potential costs the benefit simply does not sound like it outweighs it.
"I understand there are people out there who do need the water, for me personally I happen to be in the one tiny corner where I'm not going to benefit one bit from this bill," Victoria Parks of Fredonia-Stockton Road said, who lives in the Laona District but receives quality water from the village main. "I understand a lot of people will benefit and I can appreciate that. We're just in the unique situation where we will not benefit."
"The town is basically in a position where it has to form a water district," answered Natalie Whiteman, Chautauqua County Department of Health Water Resource Specialist, who endorsed the project. "A water district has to be formed to address Laona and the sanitation codes out there. What's really up to you folks Tuesday is whether you allow them to form a water district that will encompass many of you that can have water in the future, or force them to spend money for a water district just to encompass Laona."
Voting will take place today at town hall from noon to 8 p.m. Informational packets on frequently asked questions pertaining to the district can be found at town hall or on the town website at www.townofpomfretny.org
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