Water disputes keep roiling Village Board
Dunkirk apparently won’t sell Fredonia a large volume of water in an emergency — which led Fredonia Trustee James Lynden to bash the North County Water District this week.
Trustee Jon Espersen reported at the Board of Trustees meeting that the city won’t put a large volume of water through the interconnection at Vineyard Drive, in part because of concerns it could cause a shortage at the Wells ice cream plant.
He noted that according to their agreement for emergency service, Dunkirk controls how much water it will sell to Fredonia. Dunkirk is also the North County Water District’s sole supplier.
Lynden responded, “If they can’t supply water to the ice cream plant sufficiently, how are they supplying outside the city, out to the NCWD? That’s kind of a ridiculous statement… (Dunkirk) can’t send Fredonia any extra water because the ice cream plant might need more, but the NCWD can be supplied, at a vast distance.”
Espersen said, “The agreement does not specify any amount… it’s not in the agreement we signed.” He said that city water officials “would not feel safe with the amount of water we requested” using the Vineyard Drive station.
Espersen added, “Unless we want to negotiate another agreement, and try to get a volume put in there, and have our engineers review the plan, at this point there’s nothing we can do.”
“This whole thing seems really convenient at this time, this discussion, based on the many other things that have been discussed recently in the news,” Lynden said.
He questioned how Dunkirk could claim it can’t supply Fredonia a large volume of water when engineers, in a study, found it could supply around 800,000 gallons a day.
“So now for them to say that we cannot get that is ridiculous,” Lynden continued. “You know, all of a sudden we see reports of them wanting to do a backdoor connection to the university and a few other things. I just find it to be ridiculous that they’re essentially trying to poach our customers… There was statements in the OBSERVER leading us to believe they’re using fear of the quality of water, or the ability of us to provide water, when we have these abilities to provide water.”
Lynden said it would be illegal for the water district to provide water to SUNY Fredonia. He added that the “district still hasn’t even connected the contracted agreement with the village on both the east and west ends of Route 20… but they want to bump into one of our customers. And this is just one more little thing to stick in there to try to do that, and I find this really, really repugnant that they would even consider such a thing. Because if they took the university from us for whatever reason, you know what that would do to us, the ability for us to actually function as a water provider? It would eliminate us. And that’s what they’re hoping for. They want our water supply so desperately.”
Espersen said Dunkirk Department of Public Works Director Randy Woodbury told him the connections on Route 20 should be done by the end of April. Lynden reiterated, “They need to complete their end of the bargain.”
He later added that Dunkirk charges a $250 meter reading fee when the Vineyard Drive pump station is turned on by Fredonia — but Fredonia does not charge such a fee when Dunkirk turns it on.
Lynden said he had done a search on the communities with SUNY campuses and most of them have had recent boil water orders. “We’re not unique to a boil water order and they make it sound like we are,” raising his voice. “Look how many OBSERVER articles are trashing the village. This isn’t fair! And they’re going to blame the reduction of students on campus on our water? It happens at every university in the state!”
Espersen said, “I guess my response would be, it doesn’t matter if it happens anywhere else, our only concern is that we do everything we can to try to ensure it doesn’t happen here.” Lynden said he agreed.
Later in the meeting, Marcia Johnson took village officials to task for their handling of the water system issue. She spoke during the public comments portion.
“The water issue is so very confusing for the citizens of this village,” she said. “You (said) the college should be fine and everything. We have a couple college students here that when there was (the recent) boil water order, they got two or three bottles of water. Can you live off that for three days? I don’t think so.”
She continued, “Someone did say that there was a study done about eight years ago. Has nothing changed in eight years? The people of the community are confused, and I feel like the board is confused as well, and I think another study may be necessary to figure out what is the best way to go forward. It just doesn’t make sense to me that we’re going to rely on almost a decade old information, when we’ve had new water sources and other organizations. It just seems so convoluted.”
Johnson added, “We want a new hospital, and you’re doing a resolution for a new hospital. Are they going to bring it if we don’t have a good water source? We want to save our college. Are people going to send their children here if we don’t have a hospital or water? This water is the most important thing for the community, and I feel like it’s just status quo in this village.”
Espersen had the final word on the village water situation at Monday’s meeting — after Lynden said he was originally going to talk about it during his own report time, “but I think we’ve done enough on water tonight.”
Espersen said that after a recent special meeting on water issues, “predictably, after hours of discussion, no consensus was made on the best way forward.” He expressed worries that torrential rain, as happened recently in California, could overwhelm the dam.
He noted that Brooks-TLC (for its proposed hospital in the village) and SUNY Fredonia are eying secondary water sources. While both may require two sources, “Their statements can be construed as lack of faith in our current water source.”
Espersen said the village is charging less for water than it costs to produce. He asked for a resolution calling for a comprehensive water study by LaBella, the engineer retained by the village.
“It is my strong belief we need as much information as possible, because whatever decision is made will determine the future of our water supply for decades to come,” Espersen concluded.