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Village Water Rate Increase Debate Continues

Board Reviewing Comprehensive Plan

By Jann Wiswall

The Village Board is still debating how it will structure a water rate increase for village residents and businesses.

While the board agrees that more funds must be raised to help pay for short- and long-term infrastructure repairs to the 100-year-old system, the board has not yet settled on methods of calculating a fair and equitable increase, especially in light of the fact that rates were reclassified and increased for most customers in 2013. The 2013 adjustment is generating $20,000 more in water revenue than in the previous year — or a total of $148,000.

Jim Campolong, capital projects manager for Nussbaumer & Clarke, explained to the board that the 2013 increase was a start, but that estimated costs of needed repairs could be as much as $1.25 million over several years, depending on the priority of repairs and that the 2013 increase did not even cover the cost of this past winter’s deluge of frozen water service lines.

At its March meeting, Campolong offered the board one funding strategy that included a combination of water usage rate increases, changes to minimum usage amounts and a flat capital improvements fee.

At the June 8 meeting, Campolong presented a variation on that strategy that would raise $17,000 through rate and usage changes and another $59,000 through flat fees, bringing total revenues to $224,000.

He also proposed establishing new fees that would be charged by the department of public works to help offset its time and materials costs of defrosting residential water lines.

The board felt that the latest strategy still puts too much of a burden on residents. However, as Village Engineer Mike Smith pointed out, 90 percent of the village’s water customers are residents.

“The biggest water users of the past are gone,” he said, noting the loss of manufacturing companies such as Signore, Louisville Slugger, sawmills and others that generated far more water revenues for the village.

“We haven’t found a way to replace them,” he added.

Still, the board is concerned about putting an additional burden on residents and said it wants more time to review assumptions.

Mayor Charlie Coolidge agreed, saying that the board must “be fair, but we also have to ensure people have water and fire protection for the long term.”

In other business, the board has begun reviewing a draft revised comprehensive plan that was prepared by the Ellicottville Village Planning Board. The plan includes suggested changes to building, permitting and zoning processes, procedures and policies.

Members of the planning board plan to attend the July village board meeting to go over changes and suggestions and make some final decisions. Smith encouraged board members to contact the planning board’s engineer with specific questions before that meeting.

The board also authorized its Special Events committee to proceed with plans for the Summer Music Festival, Jazz and Blues Weekend, Taste of Ellicottville, Rock n’ Roll Weekend and Christmas in Ellicottville.

The next meeting of the village board will be held on Monday, July 13 at 6 p.m. in the Town/Village hall.

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