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$3.7 MILLION ACCEPTED TO SETTLE SEWER FEES

Amherst lawmakers unanimously agreed Monday to accept a $3.7 million settlement in what one official called a "common sense approach" to a six-year dispute over sewer fees owed by two Clarence sewer districts.

The agreement followed negotiations initiated by Amherst Council Member Shelly Schratz and involving officials of Erie County Sewer District 5 and Clarence District 2.

If all sides agree, the settlement will head off a threatened court action by Amherst and vows by Amherst officials to cut off sewage-treatment services to more than 3,000 Clarence residents and businesses.

Schratz said she was "really proud" of her initiative in helping to solve the dispute, even though she was initially criticized by some Amherst officials.

"If you sit down and hash it out, you can solve the problem," she said.

At least one Amherst lawmaker agreed.

"You ought to be proud. This was a hell of a job," Council Member William L. Kindel said.

Under the agreement, District 5, which covers an area east of Transit Road and north of Main Street, will pay about $3.4 million to settle claims by Amherst for sewer fees dating from 1999. It will also pay $659,000 annually for the next four years for treatment fees.

Both sides agree to resolve contractual differences and to establish a formula for future billings by Amherst. Clarence District 2, located near Clarence Center, is expected to follow a similar pattern in settling an estimated $800,000 bill for back sewer fees.

An earlier offer by the county to settle the dispute for $1.9 million was rejected by Amherst board members.

"The settlement that they came up with first was really inadequate," Town Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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