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Village not getting best option on water

By ANDREW LUDWIG

I took a trip to the Village of Fredonia’s official website to make another review of the LaBella water study presentation that I first viewed with a group of concerned citizens at the informational forum held at the village Opera House. I encourage every village resident to do the same. A perusal of the web site brings so many questions to mind.

As I scrolled through the public announcements listed on the site’s main page, I came across the Dec. 5 public announcement which states, with what appears to be a typographical error:

“Attention residents, the following State of Emergency if for funding opportunities. Our water continues to be safe to drink at this time. Thank you.”

Please allow for a translation of this statement in plain language.

While there are problems with the village’s water delivery system that need fixing, there is no water state of emergency in the village.

We are just saying that there is one in order to get the county off our backs and in the hopes of landing some grant money to help pay to fix the problems. Problems that would not exist had the proper maintenance been done on our water treatment plant, dam and reservoir for the past 40 years or so.

Just a bit below the Dec. 5 public announcement is the LaBella water presentation dated Nov.16. I revisited slide 29 on page 15 of the report. The title of the chart on this report page says OVERALL ALTERNATIVES ANALYSIS. The last line on the chart says Annual Cost/EDU. The EDU abbreviation stands for Equivalent Dwelling Unit which seems to be something akin to average daily household use. The last line in the chart reads:

Upgrade WTP Upgrade Reservoir: $1.245

Decommission, Construct Interconnect $1.535

Decommission Drawdown Construct Interconnect $1.433

There is a chart just below this chart that contains some hypotheticals that appear as though they were added to make one of the more expensive proposals appear to be less so.

On page 33 of the presentation, there is a list of potential grant opportunities for each of the three proposed projects. There are more grant opportunities listed for the drawdown interconnect project than there are for simply upgrading the reservoir and water treatment plant. One is left to wonder. Are there grant opportunities not listed on the report? How much money can be awarded from one of these grants? Can multiple grants be awarded for the same project? Will every grant listed be applied for?

No matter the number of grant possibilities, it only takes the landing of one well written and generous grant award to offset much of the cost of any project. The number of grants a municipality can apply for is not as important as the skill of the grant writer.

Will the village be hiring a professional grant writer? What if the village moves forward with a project by counting on grants and no grants are awarded for the project they choose?

A public announcement listed for Dec. 8 is a posting of the redacted LaBella Water evaluation The reader of the study is left to wonder who decided upon the redactions.After scrolling through many redacted pages, page 77 of this report simply states what slide 29 on page 15 of the presentation states, without hypotheticals and pretty pictures.

Upgrading the water treatment plant and reservoir is the less expensive option according to LaBella’s Summary of life-cycle cost analysis.

Summary of life-cycle cost analysis

Simple annual average total cost over 30-year life-cycle (2023 present value): Total: $5,582,000; Total per EDU: $1,245

Simple annual average total cost over 30-year life-cycle (2023 present value): Total: $6,882,000; Total per EDU: $1,535

Simple annual average total cost over 30-year life-cycle (2023 present value): Total: $6,425,000; Total per EDU: $1,433

Here are a few questions to ask your village trustees and mayor.

Why did village officials in the previous administration spend more than $100K of taxpayer money on a water study, just to vote to move forward with a course of action that is more expensive than fixing the reservoir?

Why are village officials unwilling to hold a public referendum on the water delivery choices? There will have to be a bond issue referendum to spend the money, if the drawdown interconnect plan is proceeded with anyway. Why move forward with a plan when you don’t really know the will of the people that you represent? If the trustees move forward with their plan to decommission the water treatment plant and interconnect with Dunkirk, time and resources may be spent only to find that the public had other ideas. And by then, it may be too late to change course. But perhaps that has been the plan all along. Move ahead before someone puts a stop to this plan.

Well, some concerned citizens have stepped up to do just that. Legal action has been taken to halt the trustees’ current plan.

This legal action could not have been undertaken, if the previous and current village boards had done their due diligence and followed proper procedural channels instead of rushing to a premature vote at the threatening encouragement of the county health department.

And what about the county? I have no problem with the county government pressuring the village to fix our water problems. But what took you so long? The village could have used your help a decade or two or three ago.

And why does it appear that at least a few county officials are trying to influence the village mayor, trustees and residents to choose a course of action that includes buying water from Dunkirk? The more expensive and more restrictive course of action at that.

I am for a village water delivery plan that according to the LaBella study is less expensive. I am for a water delivery system that provides better water quality than other alternatives. I am for a water delivery plan that maintains Fredonia’s water independence. I am for a water delivery plan that preserves a natural wonder. I am for what appears to be the best option for Fredonia’s water. That is, upgrading the village of Fredonia’s water treatment plant, reservoir and dam as quickly as possible.

I will repeat this message again and again and again until someone shuts me down with a referendum vote or someone steps up with indisputable numbers, facts and figures showing otherwise.

Andrew Ludwig is a Fredonia resident.

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