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A proposed water agreement between the City of Batavia and Genesee County is vital to the continued economic development of the city, Council members were told Monday night.

Speaking at the Council's regular meeting at the Senior Citizens Center, Jeff Hughes, representing the Batavia Development Corp., urged the Council to vote in favor of a plan that calls for the city to lease its water plant to the county for 40 years, with the city retaining the right to decide from what source its residents will obtain their water.

The Council is expected to vote on the issue, which has been on the table for two years, at a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the old County Courthouse building.

Hughes said that companies looking to locate in the City of Batavia are "concerned about our water supply."

He added that the city-county proposal offers greater financial security to the city -- through a new sales tax agreement that would give the city an estimated $1.7 million per year in additional revenue over the next 40 years -- and would enable the city to "maintain the local control that is important to so many city residents."

His views were shared by three other well-know Batavians -- Raymond Sanfratello, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce; Martin Culik, director of the Genesee County Cooperative Extension; and businessman Paul Marchese.

The Chamber of Commerce last year adopted a resolution in support of a county-wide water supply plan and just last week revised it to address the current proposal.

"You've had two years, you have all the information . . . be brave and do the right thing," Sanfratello told the Council.

Paraphrasing from the book, "New Work Habits for the Next Millennium," he urged the Council to "be explorative and innovative" and to "move beyond the comfort zone of old habits."

Culik said businesses need to be assured of the "long-term quantity and quality" of water and that the Council needs to work with the county and be "part of the solution." Marchese said a key to the proposal is the sales tax issue, with the city being able to get "a big piece of the big pie."

Not all of the public comments were in favor of the plan, however.

Roger Martin said Council members have an obligation to the City of Batavia, not the county, and told them to develop "our own water system."

"If you go the other way, we'll be locked in for 40 years," he said.

Donald Ball was more direct in his approach. "First the (Genesee Country) Mall, then Dwyer Stadium," he said, speaking about other controversial subjects in the city. "Now, you're trying to give our water away."

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