It hasn't happened yet, but the process to increase the rates for water customers of the city of Dunkirk moved another step closer to being official during Tuesday's Common Council meeting. With water rates set under local law, council moved to table Resolution 83-2012 for a public hearing Nov. 5 at 5:20 p.m., just prior to council's next regular meeting.
There was discussion about the increase, and the city budget, prior to the vote.
Expressing concern about the impact to residents, First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski asked Development Director Steve Neratko for an update on the proposed Chadwick Bay Water District.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Common Council members Michael Michalski (left) and William Rivera talk about water rate hikes at Tuesday’s meeting.
Neratko said an implementation plan for regional water is the next step and the group has hired a consultant. Presentations on possibilities to various local governing bodies are planned.
"What is the potential for regional water in the area and basically, what is the route that will be best taken right now? They're looking at numerous options, there's a lot on the table," Neratko explained.
"Basically, it can be anywhere from the city just selling water to municipalities, pretty much expanding on the opportunities we already have, to having a completely new water authority or water agency in the region."
Neratko said the group recently had a kickoff meeting on the implementation plan and heard from state officials on possible funding and others who had completed similar projects.
"What I really got out of the meeting was it's going to take some time, but there are steps we can take up until that point; and really the biggest thing is to work with municipalities that surround us. When opportunities present themselves to those municipalities for grant opportunities, that we step up and we act as a partner. They're going to have to take the lead on it but we do need to realize that we need to be a partner. We may be able to get funding for some of the activities that we need to address as well."
Michalski noted it was important for the city to stay involved with the proposed water district now that costs are hitting city residents.
"Hopefully, some of these costs will be either spread out among the area municipalities or we generate more revenue," he stated.
Second Ward Councilman William Rivera said city residents were going to feel the pinch for things that have been put off.
"Things that should have been taken care of that weren't," he continued. "Our backs have kind of been put against the wall to get these things taken care of now. ... I just want to let city residents know there is more to come."
Prior to the vote to table, Rivera said he had figured out how the increase would affect his water bill.
"I really found myself saying to myself, this really wasn't all that bad," he reported.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked Mayor Anthony J. Dolce if he had met with "any of the top industries or plan to in the near future so they are prepared?'
"Most definitely," he replied. "And I'm sure they've heard me talk about this over the last five, six months. So yes."
After the meeting Dolce was asked if the increase was to cover borrowing for the 2009 consent order the city is under to upgrade its water system.
"That is correct. Any new monies, if you will, that come in will go directly toward paying down our debt service," he replied.
In his 2013 budget proposal Dolce listed $250,000 from each of Fund II and Fund III as Fund I revenues as administrative expenses. He was asked if the city's outside auditors were consulted on the move.
"That came through in discussions with (City Treasurer) Mark Woods and Mark Woods had discussions with Johnson, Mackowiak," he replied, "and it was done for quite a number of years and last done in 2003."
As to whether the $250,000 from each fund covers the actual expenses for administering those funds, Dolce said it could be looked at in a couple different ways.
"If you were to have a separate water district or a separate wastewater district, you would have administrative costs. It's safe to say the administrative costs run at least 10 percent in either operation. Our numbers, our $250,000 admin fee from each fund, is lower, one significantly lower, than the 10 percent administration fee," he explained. "So we're very conservative. If you look back to the 2003 budget you'll see one fund, the water fund, contributed $300,000; and the wastewater fund contributed $200,000. So in 10 years we didn't account for any inflation, so we played it very conservative with those numbers."
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