BROCTON - Leaders in the Village of Brocton can check another major utility project off of their to-do list. But Town of Portland leaders want to be assured Brocton will be paying its fair share after completion.
The village was notified on the last week of September that it has been awarded an approximately $450,000 hardship assistance grant from Environmental Facilities Corporation, with a financing option of almost $2.2 million in interest-free loans for a 30-year period to update its water plant.
Portland Town Council members Jerry Boltz and Al Valentin, and Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz attended the village's board meeting to inquire about how the project will affect Portland's water customers, who have been growing in numbers due to the creation of new water districts in the town.
Portland is one of Brocton's largest water customers, a relationship which is beneficial to both municipalities, but council members wanted to be assured that final water rates, after the dust from the project settles, will be distributed equitably.
"The biggest concern we have, realizing you have done everything you can to make the water affordable, is how is this going to be broken down in the payback stage?" asked Schrantz.
The town supervisor and councilmen noted that several rumors have sprung up among Portland water customers that they'll be paying double rates after the project is completed.
Mayor Dave Hazelton responded that since the project hasn't officially been bid out yet, they haven't reached the stage of calculating future rates. But Hazelton understood Schrantz's' sentiments, adding, "We have to live here, too, and all of us want this to be as affordable as possible."
Project engineer Rex Tolman indicated that because the grant award was issued on the basis of a financial hardship, the rates will have to coincide with EFC's requirements for a low- to moderate-income community. The mayor and Tolman agreed to go back into the original grant application, where a ballpark rate figure was suggested, to at least give the town leaders some sense of what they're facing on behalf of their water customers.
"The grant agencies will offer a suggested e.d.u. price, and they will still try to keep that number close to the median level of income in your municipality," Tolman said.
"We'd like to have something of an estimate, or ballpark figure so that when this finally settles, we can say 'yes, this is reasonable for our customers,'" Valentin said.
"We'll have to get you a number, we certainly want you as water customers and don't want to let this get out of hand," Hazelton said.
Thinking proactively, Hazelton did pose the question to Tolman, what would happen if the project ran over budget and couldn't be completed. The current project calls for three parts: Water supply which includes all work at the plant itself, except the chemical feed buildings; Chemical Feed and Injection Stabilization buildings; and water main.
"Then you would scale it back, and only do as much water main as you could afford to have. With the grant agencies, if it's not very much that you're off by, they may step in and cover the gap for you, it just depends," Tolman said.
"There's really not a lot of fluff in there. These are all critical items that you've been dinged by the department of health for a number of years with. The operators of this plant really need to be commended because as it stands, this really isn't an easy plant to run," Tolman added.
Because the filtration has had to be done manually on the current system, water plant operators have been doing somewhat of a juggling act to keep the water at the best quality. Tolman noted that execution of the project may pose a slight difficulty since the plant will need to remain in operation while all work is being done.
Blueprints for the proposed project were given to all board members, and village streets and electrical department leaders to review and offer suggestions.