‘Next step’ for water: Engineer optimistic on $8.5M Cassadaga project

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Matt Zarbo, Director of Engineering at E&B Squared, presented plans and funding avenues for a water system capital improvement project at a recent Cassadaga Village Board meeting.

CASSADAGA — The village will need to make a substantial investment — more than $8.5 million — in its water system to avoid a potential disaster down the line. But according to the engineer the Village has hired to guide them through the process, there are plenty of ways for the outlook to not look so bleak.

Matt Zarbo, Director of Engineering at E&B Squared, presented a plan for the Village to proceed with its proposed water system project. In the presentation, Zarbo broke down the potential grant funding options the Village could take advantage of.

“I do think we can get the funding to make the entire project affordable,” Zarbo said.

The Village has just over seven miles of water main, featuring three groundwater wells and treatment buildings, one water storage tank, and one booster pump station. Concerns exist of the aging water main and aging equipment at the wells, along with poor chlorine residuals at the water tank and issues with freezing.

“Your system doesn’t operate like a system today should because you’re using controls that are very antiquated,” Zarbo told the Board. “… Now it’s time to take that next step.”

However, the most significant concern is the inadequate source capacity of the system.

The proposed project considered alternatives for how to provide water to residents, with the two main alternatives being additional treatment to be added to the existing water well, or the preferred option of Zarbo, centered around locating groundwater and installing a new well where it is located.

In Zarbo’s preferred option, the total cost to the Village would be approximately $8,579,000. He estimated the necessary improvements to the existing infrastructure to cost $4,427,000; a new groundwater well to cost $1,230,000; inflation and general construction costs of $544,000; engineering and legal costs to be $1,189,000 (or 20%); and an additional $1,189,000 allocated to contingency. Zarbo noted if the Village is unable to locate groundwater, the other option — additional treatment to be added to the existing water well — would cost approximately $800,000 more than his preferred route. Zarbo stated that a hydro-geologist believes groundwater would be located, but would not guarantee it.

Zarbo expressed optimism the Village will receive substantial grant funding for its proposed project. The Village is seeking a grant through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, which provides up to 70% of funding, up to $5 million. To max out the potential funding amount through the DWSRF award, the Village would need a project of at least $7.14 million. Zarbo called the DWSRF grant funding avenue “very, very likely.”

The Village is also seeking a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of up to $2 million, and also hopes to receive Congressional Earmark funds of approximately $2 million, as well.

Zarbo believes the Village could obtain grants at a 0% interest rate, which would make the portion the Village is responsible for paying much more palatable. He provided hypothetical breakdowns of the cost per user depending on how big of a project is approved and how much grant funding is received.

If the Village proceeds with an $8.6 million project, but receives a $5 million grant and a 0% interest rate, the increase per user will be $146 per year. If the amount of grant funding received is $6.62 million, the increased cost per user would be $81 per year. Zarbo believes the Village will receive enough grant funding to fall between an increase of $81-$146 per year.

If the Village needs to pursue the other option Zarbo included in the presentation, a $9.5 million project, with $5 million of grant funding and a 0% interest rate, the annual increase would be $182 per user. With $7 million in grant funding for a $9.5 million project, the annual increase would be $101 per user. Current water rates in the Village are approximately $420 per year. Zarbo stated that funding agencies would still consider the increased rates as affordable to village residents, but it would ultimately be up to the Board what it believes the residents would support.

Zarbo concluded his presentation by reiterating that grant funding is essential to making the project affordable and realistic for the Village. The project will be designed in a way that will allow the Board an opportunity to scale back its upgrades if the project is deemed too costly. Zarbo also reiterated he believes an $8.6 million project could be affordable to the Village if the right grant opportunities come through.

After Zarbo’s presentation, the Village Board issued a negative declaration for the project as required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The Village is acting as lead agency on the project.

The Village Board also later issued a bond resolution in an amount not to exceed $9.5 million, should the Village need to pursue funding for the more costly of the potential project designs. The Village also authorized the submission for a Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) grant and an Environmental Facilities Corporation State Revolving Funds grant.

Mayor Bill Dorman was also authorized to execute the engineering contract with E&B Squared Consulting and Engineering for its project, contingent upon approval from Village Attorney Joe Calimeri.


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