SHERIDAN - Given a month to consider its options, North County Water Agency members had no trouble taking the first step toward regional water.
The meeting began with NCWA Chair and Pomfret Supervisor Don Steger asking members for their thoughts on a direction for the project for a waterline down Route 5 from the town of Portland to the town of Hanover.
Despite engineering figures showing Dunkirk as a sole provider would be the most cost-effective option, all members present agreed to make the project "regional;" the village of Fredonia should be included.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe speaks during the North County Water Agency meeting Thursday. Also pictured from left are Brocton Mayor David Hazelton, Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, Keefe, Dunkirk Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak, Legislator George Borrello and Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce.
"I think it's very important to include Fredonia if we want a total regional project," Portland Supervisor Dan Schrantz said.
Brocton Mayor David Hazelton said he understands eliminating his village's water plant, but wants a say in water prices.
"After reviewing the options, we are in favor of option two with Dunkirk and Fredonia as the purveyor of the water. I realize that takes Brocton out of the picture, but our plant needs a lot of work. Even though we are ready to do that work, we are also a high-cost provider. Keeping us in the system would drive everyone's cost up. Having said that, unless the village of Brocton has some voice in the pricing and a member on the board that sets the pricing, we'll stay on our own. Like I said, we don't necessarily want to do that. I think this is good for the region and the community to all be in one system, but we have to have a voice in the cost," he said.
The town of Dunkirk, city of Dunkirk, town of Pomfret and village of Fredonia representatives agreed with Schrantz. Voting representatives from the towns of Sheridan and Hanover were absent.
Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo gave no opinion on the supplier of the water, saying it is hard for him to make any decision until the water is available. The village of Silver Creek and the town of Hanover have contracts with Erie County Water Authority for several more years.
When it came time to vote, it was unanimously approved that the project would go forward with the city of Dunkirk and village of Fredonia as suppliers.
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said this decision marks a great first step.
"This is a great step forward. It is very, very important for our community, our economic development. ... I think we are in a good place going forward. It's about coming together. We know we have challenges in our community, but I am convinced when we work together, when we come together, when we give and take and see the big picture, we will see the great days ahead for Chautauqua County," he said.
Consultant Patrick Brennan said the next steps would be for the county legislature and the village of Fredonia to pass resolutions of support for adding Fredonia's plant to the project in order to file a consolidated funding application. The NCWA board also passed a resolution of support for applying for the funding.
"I am very positive about this," Steger added. "This is something we can build on to start our own economic revival. ... There are going to be tough times ahead to get this finalized, to get this moving forward, but as long as we keep an open mind and have a goal we're shooting for, hopefully we can smooth out some of those bumps in the road."
After the meeting, Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said all the municipalities worked together to make this first step, but more challenges lie ahead in determining how the water will be sold.
The next meeting was not scheduled and will be announced at a future date.
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