City and Chautauqua County officials will continue to explore forming a Chautauqua County sewer district centering on the the city's waste water treatment plant in Wright Park.
A public meeting was held Tuesday night with city officials, Chautauqua County Executive Andrew Goodell, County Legislator Ronald Szot, D-Dunkirk, and Gregory Yaw, counsel to the county for water and sewer districts.
The waste water treatment plant has been blamed for many of the city's financial problems, and city officials are looking for alternatives for financing the facility.
Goodell said cutting the deficit on the plant could be accomplished by cutting costs or increasing rates or finding new customers, or a combination of these three.
Councilman at Large Frank Gawronski said the city had a study showing co-generation of electricity would cut costs and is discussing this with the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.
The city's fiscal officer, Charles Herron, said that about 60 percent of the debt owed on the plant could be called prior to maturity and refinanced; about 40 percent could not. Some refinancing is possible through the state's revolving loan fund, he said, and the county could be involved in refinancing under a district and get a better rate of interest.
Yaw then explained the steps in creating the district, from the engineering and planning to the legislative and other approvals to contracts for purchasing the facilities.
"A reasonable timetable is five to six months," he said. "It can take longer."
"The legislature wants to look at both the water and sewer as a district," added Goodell.
The subject of rates was not discussed in detail, but Yaw said that other districts in the county assess a charge to each unit within the district and then may also have a user fee. City residents may get a break because they own the plant, although the sewer lines will be part of the district as well.
Employees of the district would be county employees, and Yaw said how that transition would occur would be negotiated between the parties.
Gawronski, who chaired the meeting, said he was surprised that no city employees came to the meeting.
Mayor Margaret Wuerstle said Fredonia had not been approached to become part of the district.
Engineering studies in the past have suggested some kind of county authority made up of the water and sewer plants of both municipalities. City officials decided to review the studies before the next meeting.
The group informally agreed to have a request for proposals sent out for engineering studies after cost estimates are taken. Goodell offered to have the county pay half the cost of the new studies.
City officials agreed that the Chadwick Bay Group, a regional planning organization, should be consulted. Letters of invitation to the next meeting will be sent to the towns of Dunkirk, Pomfret, Portland and Sheridan and the villages of Fredonia and Silver Creek. Others to