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Benefits of new sewer districts lauded

Lower sewer bills and fewer beach closings are among the benefits people will start to see in the new year, thanks to sewer district consolidation, officials said Friday.

The supervisors of the towns of Hamburg, Lancaster and Aurora and the mayors of the villages of Orchard Park and North Collins joined County Executive Joel A. Giambra to sing the praises of consolidation during a news conference at the Southtowns Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in Hamburg.

Combining, antiquated systems into new, modern ones will lessen the number of overflows when heavy rains cause untreated sewage to flow into Lake Erie and force beach closings, according to Thomas Whetham, deputy commissioner of the county Division of Sewerage Management.

Giambra said the mergers "will result in present and future cost savings" due to economies of scale and enable the districts to better meet increasingly stringent state and federal water quality standards.

The county will have seven sewer districts next year and the goal is eventually to have just one, including Buffalo, he said.

Lancaster residents are predicted to save about $100 per customer, or a total of $100,000, next year with additional savings in the future.

Supervisor Robert Giza said "we've been trying for 20 years to merge" several small districts. He said the only difference residents will notice "is that their bills will go down."

Northern districts in Hamburg will merge with predicted total savings of $95,000 -- or $90 per household. Additional mergers are planned, Supervisor Steven Walters said.

Maintaining the status quo "is no longer good enough" and further consolidation of services will be sought, said Walters, who tried unsuccessfully for a merger of the town's emergency dispatch center into the county's this fall.

Town of Aurora residents voted last week, 115-4, for a merger into the county system. Supervisor Terence Yarnall said savings of $400 per household a year are expected.

Village of Orchard Park Mayor John Wilson said that after a rough start and numerous meetings, talks with the county produced an agreement. Sewers that once cost $1 a foot to install now cost $100 a foot and major repairs can be "staggering" for small districts, he said. Savings of $100 a year per resident are expected.

Village of North Collins residents are expected to see only a $10 savings next year, but Mayor Dolores Rinaldi said the village system is old and has the potential to become very expensive if the cost of major repairs has to be borne by only a small number of residents.


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