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Fredonia to get new review on water

Fredonia has to change course on its water infrastructure plans after State Supreme Court Justice Grace Hanlon tossed out its Dec. 26 resolution. The process publicly began last week at a Board of Trustees workshop.

Trustees had voted in April to do a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) in conjunction with the resolution, which would have put the village on a path to closing the treatment plant, drawing down the reservoir and buying water from Dunkirk. However, as Trustee Jon Espersen said, that won’t happen because Hanlon overturned the original Dec. 26 resolution.

“Due to the judge’s decision we had a meeting with LaBella and the attorneys. The SEQR we had already ordered is put on pause,” Espersen said. “The suggestion was, by all parties, that LaBella perform an umbrella SEQR to cover any option before us through their report. They’ve never done one of those before, so they’re working with their ecologist and their grant writers. They will probably submit that to us sometime in June.”

Espersen said the delay will make the village ineligible for water infrastructure funding announced this year by Gov. Kathy Hochul. “We can only hope and pray that money is available next year but there’s no guarantee,” he said.

The point of getting a SEQR is to unlock grant money for the water system, village officials said.

“We’re done this year,” Mayor Michael Ferguson said. “$400 million worth of water infrastructure grants that were due to us and now this is going to cost our taxpayers more.”

“I think it’s interesting that LaBella has never had to do something like this,” Trustee Nicole Siracuse said.

“I don’t think they’re very knowledgeable,” Trustee Michelle Twichell said.

Espersen laughed at her. “They’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of water projects,” he said. Ferguson called Twichell’s statement “nonsense.”

Espersen and Siracuse both voted for the Dec. 26 resolution. Ferguson, who started as mayor after the resolution passed, supported it. Twichell voted against it and repeatedly criticized it.

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