PORTLAND - The water business is causing a sinking ship that everyone is trying to keep afloat.
This is the essence of what was addressed during the special meeting held in the Town of Portland Hall.
"We need to provide water for everyone," Supervisor Dan Schrantz said. "We are looking at all kinds of scenarios out there."
OBSERVER Photo by Jasmine Willis
Clark Patterson Lee Senior Associate Eric Wies gives a presentation on the regional water system and how certain scenarios may or may not benefit the Town of Portland and Village of Brocton at the special meeting held in the Town Hall.
Councilman Rick Manzella brought up the somber notion everyone is sinking.
"We are all in the same boat here," he said. "It is starting to leak."
Clark Patterson Lee Senior Associate Eric Wies came to give his own thoughts on what would benefit the Town of Portland and the Village of Brocton.
Tolman Engineering Owner and Manager Rex Tolman and Chautauqua County Health Department Engineer Paul Snyder came to give their professional opinions as well.
"We were asked to come up with the cheapest option for the region," Wies said. "We are also set with a time frame for funding; Chadwick Bay wants this done sooner rather than later."
Everyone has their own ideas on how this regional plan should pan out. City of Dunkirk wants to keep control of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Village of Fredonia wants to keep control of their plant. Village of Brocton is faced with the concept of jumping off the edge. Town of Portland wants what is best for the community in the long run.
The idea is to get a set rate for everyone in the regional system. In order to have a regional plan someone has to be willing to share. Brocton and Portland discussed the plan of sharing with each other for now; in case the regional system falls through they don't want to be left holding the bag. That would mean their shared rate would be $5.61 per 1,000 gallons.
"When you bring up regional water there is always problems," Wies said.
"Batavia didn't want to share at first when we did the Genesee regional plan."
"Nothing is set in stone here," Wies continued. "We just want to bring these points up for your consideration."
Tolman added there is a lot of cost with dredging and if the regional system were to happen there would be no need for dredging anymore.
"It is always hard to look long term," he said. "Rates could double in the next two years."
Snyder mentioned the huge problem comes in who is going to operate these water plants.
"No one is coming up the ranks; everyone is going to retire in the next five years," he said. "There is no interested in the business; we won't have anyone to work these plants."
Tolman pointed out the old way of doing things isn't working anymore.
"We are between a rock and a hard place now," he said. "The band-aid isn't working anymore; we need to do something."
Wies said Brocton is faced with jumping off the edge.
"There is no guarantee Portland will remain a customer; you have to invest all this money," he said.
Mayor David Hazelton suggested using the $1 million grant to solve the problem between Brocton and Fredonia.
"We have waited two years trying to be a good community," he said. "We need to move forward."
Wies said the scary part is if Brocton does jump off the edge, they are looking at an almost $17 rate per 1,000 gallons.
The idea is to have Portland and Brocton share an equal rate so the rate goes down.
"We can't wait for an event to happen; it may happen 15 years from now; it may happen tomorrow," he said. "We don't want to burden the community and chance going bankrupt if we lose the Portland water customers because they want cheaper water too."
"We can't do it alone or we will go bankrupt," Hazelton continued. "We need to join costs and share whatever water is available to us, gain larger number of customers; if regional happens we are all in the same boat."
Schrantz said they can't go living off their forefathers water supply.
"We lived off our forefathers for over 100 years and we have to start thinking about the next 100 years time frame," he said.
"Regional is an easy word to say until they start taking things away," he continued. "Everyone thought merging sports was a good idea until it happened to their school; everyone is OK until it happens to them and then they don't like it."
Portland and Brocton are both worried about the future of their current water supply and how residents may wake up and not have water.
Wies encouraged them to look at all solutions and iron it out.
Hazelton said a decision needs to be made by June 1.
"Our two boards need to make a choice," he said. "We have about a day and a half of storage right now."
In order for everyone to be part of a regional system the five-mile stretch of Route 5 needs to be fixed.
The next meeting to discuss more of the regional system will be at the Chadwick Bay/ Water Agency meeting April 10 at 5:30 p.m in the Silver Creek High School Auditorium.