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TOWNS REACH AGREEMENT ON BACK SEWER FEES

Averting a possible lawsuit, Clarence town officials have agreed to pay at least $637,000 in back fees owed to Amherst for sewer services. And it appears Amherst will accept the offer.

Clarence has agreed to make the payment -- or 80 percent of the total being tussled over -- to Amherst by Dec. 31. In the meantime, Clarence officials will continue negotiating with Amherst over the remaining 20 percent, or about $245,000 more, said Supervisor Kathleen E. Hallock.

Clarence and Erie County have been withholding sewer fees from Amherst as part of a six-year dispute over back fees. Clarence and Erie County accuse Amherst of overcharging them for certain administrative costs.

But Hallock said Clarence hopes the talks can produce a new formula for determining how much her town should pay Amherst for providing services to two sewer districts in Clarence.

She said she hopes a new formula would "determine what we truly owe" and that if it appears Clarence does owe the remaining 20 percent, "we will pay. We don't want to be unfair."

Talks are set to be completed in April.

The ongoing dispute heated up recently as Amherst officials -- faced with a big budget deficit -- threatened litigation and to cut off service to about 3,000 customers in Sewer District 2 and District 5.

District 2 is near Clarence Center, and District 5 is east of Transit Road and north of Main Street.

The Clarence Town Board unanimously approved the deal at its meeting Wednesday. Erie County has also reached agreement with Amherst, agreeing to pay back more than $3 million.

Amherst Council Member Shelly Schratz is sponsoring a resolution calling for the Town Board to accept Clarence's offer. The topic likely will come up at the board's meeting Monday.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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