South county entity has big say on water

In terms of local government, there is really nothing as unique as the Board of Public Utilities (BPU.) It is a subsidiary of the city government of Jamestown, but it serves a much larger clientele.

Back in the 1970s when I first became involved in politics, the BPU was largely an electric utility and it also ran the city’s water system. It also provided these services to Falconer and to parts of the town of Ellicott. Today, it continues to provide these utilities but its water supply system has been expanded to include the village of Lakewood, parts of Busti and up the lake as far as the BOCES school in Ashville. It also supplies water to the Stoneman Industrial Park (Southern Tier Brewery) and to Cummins Engine.

As a means to remove costs from its tax bill, in the 1990s the city also shifted sewer and garbage collection obligations to the BPU. Not only did this save the city money, but the BPU today contributes several million dollars back each year to the city to help balance its budget. The BPU charges extra for its services to outside communities, and this benefits the city.

There is little chance that the BPU could expand its electrical grid beyond its current borders, primarily because National Grid would oppose it, and a buy-out of National Grid’s interest would, if even possible, be very expensive.

However, the expansion of the BPU’s public water system is another matter. It already sells water to others outside its borders and has the capacity to further extend its water service. It has already provided water lines to most of the developable land within the city itself.

Back when Fred Dunn was mayor of Jamestown, the BPU significantly increased its water supply capacity by drilling new wells in the heart of the Jamestown aquifer located in the town of Poland. Anyone who has seen the Hartson swamp knows just how vast and extensive this aquifer is. It is one of the greatest assets that we have in this community.

I live in the town of North Harmony where there is significant interest in being connected to the BPU’s water system. Everyone here, not on a public water system, has to drill or maintain their own fresh water well. Though wells usually find water, some have deliverability problems (you can only do a couple of clothes washing cycles a day) or you may find highly mineralized water which sometimes smells and needs a lot of filtering.

North Harmony is completing a feasibility study and leaders here are in support of expanding water service in the town. The bigger question is, are there other adjacent areas, especially up the lake, which would also benefit by having public water?

If so, these communities need to make their views known. Proper sizing of pipe and the building of water storage facilities is something that is determined by the estimated number of people to be served.

Are there people in the town of Chautauqua, village of Mayville or Chautauqua Institution who would benefit from such a public water system? Citizens of Fluvanna, in the town of Ellicott, have expressed interest in a public water supply. What about people in Bemus Point or the town of Ellery who are also on that side of the lake?

This “train may be leaving from the station.” Do you want to be on board? If you live up the lake and want public water, you had better make your views known. Once the train has left the station, it may be too late to decide.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident and a former New York State Assembly member.


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