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The Tonawanda Common Council on Tuesday moved to relinquish control of its financially drained Water Department

A resolution approved Tuesday is the first step in turning over the department to an "outside entity." The Council will review the law and hold a second vote on July 3, in accordance with state regulations.

With the resolution likely to win a second approval, Mayor Alice Roth will then hold a public hearing on the matter near the end of July. A final decision on the Water Department's fate cannot be legally made until after the public hearing.

City officials have been negotiating with the Erie County Water Authority for months. The resolution originally called for a transfer of administration to the authority, but that language was changed to "outside entity" prior to the motion being adopted.

Roth said the city has yet to come to an agreement with the Water Authority, and Alderman Thomas Smyers said, "We might not go with them."

Regardless of who handles the city's water service, the city government is not expected to be part of it. Old waterlines and inaccurate meter settings have cost the city thousands of dollars over the past few years.

With nearby water plants working effectively, the Council believes it's in the best interests of the city to let another organization handle the system. Alderman Kevin Hardwick pointed out the inefficiency of the city, Town of Tonawanda and the county all operating plants near each other.

"Within a span of three miles, we have three water plants drawing the same water out of the same river," he said. "This is a step in the right direction and represents all that is good about regionalism."

City officials also are attempting to secure funds to handle other expenses, such as demolition of the old water plant after the department is taken over. Erie County is offering up to $250,000 to cover any incurred expenses, according to Roth.

"We feel we have a good handle on it," she said.

In other action, the Council approved a retroactive 3 percent raise for City Assessor Mary Bryant for the first six months of 2001. With Bryant set to retire on July 1, the Council also appointed Patricia Bacon as her replacement, at an annual salary of $38,000.

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