The Village of Lancaster is getting out of the water business.
In announcing the long-awaited merger between the village and the Erie County Water Authority at a press conference in Lancaster's Municipal Building Monday night, County Executive Joel A. Giambra and Lancaster Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr. said the move would improve services and lower costs for village residents.
"Today's pretty historic," Giambra said. "This is a very important step. I am proud to stand with Mayor Cansdale, Senator Volker, my colleagues in county government and members of the Erie County Water Authority's Board of Commissioners to announce this historic merger."
Giambra said the consolidation makes "dollars and sense. A merger of these two water systems is a step in the right direction."
Cansdale said the merger will benefit village residents and called it a sterling example of what can happen when governments work together.
"Ten years ago when our administration was elected into office, one of our most important goals . . . was the remediation of an antiquated and inefficient water system," Cansdale said.
The village recently finished the last step in a $4.6 million water system improvement project dating back to 1995 that upgraded the system to allow for the merger.
Lancaster village currently buys water from the authority and sells it to residents. As of Dec. 31, the Water Authority will assume responsibility for providing water to village residents. After turning over the system to the authority, the village will no longer own or manage the pipes and delivery of water.
Much of the funding for the project came through the cooperative efforts of the state and county.
State Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, who was on hand for the press conference Monday night, secured $900,000 from the Financial Assistance to Business program administered by the state Environmental Facilities Corp.
Erie County provided $200,000 more and the village received a federal Community Development Block Grant for part of the work.
Under the merger, the village's water rate will decrease from $4.11 per 1,000 gallons to $2.31 per 1,000. The village will add a $1.48 surcharge to the Water Authority's rate to pay the outstanding debt the village incurred to upgrade its system.
The new rate of $3.79 per $1,000 is 32 cents less than its current rate and should save customers about $26 in the first year, officials said. Savings will increase each year as the amount of debt service the village owes decreases.
Officials also noted that service and pressure will improve because the Water Authority will open more interconnections to the village.
In addition to Volker, County Legislator Dale W. Larson, R-Lancaster, was on hand for the press conference, as well as Water Authority Commissioners Robert J. Lichtenthal Jr. and Acea Mosey Pawlowski.