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ACCORD SEEN IN TALKS ON WATER PACT

A standoff between the Town of Orchard Park and the Erie County Water Authority over new, "more businesslike contracts" may be resolved next week.

"We have a tentative agreement that I'll present to our commissioners on Tuesday, the Town Board will get it on Wednesday. Until it is signed, I'd rather not discuss details," said Robert Mendez, executive director of the Water Authority.

However, he said, "We have achieved the standardized lease-management agreement now signed with 14 other towns. Just two, West Seneca and Clarence, remain unsigned."

Orchard Park likes the agreement for several reasons.

"We have, in writing, resolved the issue of eight water towers," Supervisor Toni M. Cudney said Wednesday.

"They will repair the towers, we will pay to bring ladders and safety railing up to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. They've justified the $2,000 fire-hydrant maintenance and repair costs, and we know exactly what is a "repair" and what is a "capital improvement we have to add to our capital bond."

A month ago, the town signed a "bulk sales agreement" to cover about a third of the town. Lease-managed districts -- serviced, maintained and billed by the authority -- cover the rest of the town, which resisted signing the 10-year pact.

"I think this is a good agreement," Town Councilman John Mills said. "They conceded on some points, and we certainly have a better understanding of their problems and aims."

Next month, the town will hire a consultant to begin a three-phase, one-year study of the town's water system. Serious pressure or volume problems have halted development in some parts of Orchard Park.

"If we don't have enough water to fight fires, we are not going to issue building permits," said town engineer Michael Merritt. "The water study will identify the town's needs, forecast needs into the future and, offer suggestions on how to service residents," he added.

Orchard Park has 43 separate water districts, some of them very small, and consolidating into several larger districts or a single town-wide district may be the most cost-effective solution, some believe. That also will be part of the study.

The bulk water areas currently are the town's responsibility. Leaks and repairs are handled by a six-person water and sewer department. The lease-managed districts are serviced by the Water Authority.

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