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Assemblyman Richard A. Smith, R-Hamburg, recalls digging smelly septic sludge out of ditches in the Highland Acres neighborhood where he grew up.

Failing septic systems at many of the 148 homes in the area just north of Rush Creek still overflow into the creek, and the effluent makes its way to Lake Erie at Woodlawn Beach State Park.

At a meeting Wednesday night in the Big Tree Fire Hall, Tom Hore of Abbott Parkway recalled that he and Smith first asked the state for help in building sewers in 1955. Now, 42 years later, residents are being handed their best chance at getting sewers, with a grant and loan expected from the state.

About 200 persons packed the meeting to hear the details of the proposed Highland Acres Sanitary Sewer District, which would have to be established before the sewers could be installed. While many live on small lots that cannot accommodate up-to-date septic systems, they were put off by the cost of the sewer project.

The cost for the owner of a $60,100 house would come to about $482 per year, plus a one-time charge, which town officials estimated at $1,500 to $2,000, for connecting to the sewer.

The annual cost would consist of $195 a year for 20 years to pay off the bonds, $35 a year for town sewer maintenance and $252 a year for sewage treatment. Town Engineer Gerard M. Kapsiak said the hookup costs might be less if a bulk bid could be arranged.

"Your children and mine have put up with this for 42 years," Hare said. "I think for a dozen people who want to go swimming at Woodlawn Beach, . . . $2,500 is a lot of money. Some of us can't afford that."

Smith noted that the area always ran into funding problems in seeking sewers. Now funds from the 1996 Environmental Bond Act might cover 75 percent to 85 percent of the $2.5 million cost. The remainder of the cost would be financed with low-interest bonds.

"We tried to tell the governor for a year-and-a-half don't open Woodlawn Beach. We've got overflow problems," Smith said. "We're the laughing stock because we're dumping our toilets in a bathing beach. . . . I don't want that reputation."

Kapsiak said plans for the first phase of construction call for hooking up 132 of the developed properties to sewers.

"There are a few homes along South Park Avenue and Big Tree that would not initially receive service," he said.

The sewers would flow to the Electric Avenue pumping station and then to the Blasdell treatment plant. The Village of Blasdell treatment charge is $252 a year, while the Erie County Southtowns Wastewater Treatment plant charges $162 a year, Kapsiak said.

Kapsiak said tying-in with Blasdell would be less expensive than constructing and operating a pumping station to pump the waste under Rush Creek to the Southtowns plant. But one resident suggested the sewer tie-in with the county system under the Thruway.

"With the money we would save, it would be a lot cheaper, Jack Ryan said. "Everything runs down hill."

Ryan urged residents not to sign-on to the sewer district until they know which plant will treat the waste. Kapsiak said Ryan's proposal will be examined.

"The state bought a bad property. Why don't they pick up the whole cost?" Ryan asked.

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