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Regional water district discussed in Dunkirk

DUNKIRK – An open forum about the concept of a northern Chautauqua County Water District was held Tuesday evening in the city’s courtroom.

Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards is seeking the city’s support for the regional concept. The county wants to proceed with a consolidated grant application to New York State. The deadline is 4 p.m. Aug. 12.

County officials and members of the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Association have been visiting communities in the northern Chautauqua area for several months trying to gain support for the plan. Dunkirk would be the supplier of water to villages and townships along the Lake Erie shoreline in Chautauqua County.

Dunkirk’s officials have been expanding water sales to neighboring communities and had concerns about giving up their rights and their profits as the supplier. They already have customers in the towns of Dunkirk, Sheridan, Pomfret and Portland. Additionally, the city has sold water to neighboring Fredonia when Fredonia’s supplies were running low.

Edwards presented the proposal as allowing Dunkirk to incorporate about $17 million in debt for water improvements into the regional plan and distributing the cost of the debt. He also proposed that a regional system would allow for expansion in other areas that could benefit Dunkirk.

Jay Warren, who has been representing the Lakefront Water Revitalization Program and the Chadwick Bay Group and has been proposing regionalism to the northern Chautauqua area as a means of growth, spoke in favor of the program.

Dunkirk Director of Public Works Tony Gugino, told Council members that he looked at the proposal as a way to allow the county to move forward and try to get some grant funding from the state to offset some of the debt.

Dunkirk was mandated to do many repairs to its water distribution system and is in the process of replacing water lines and upgrading its water treatment plant. The plant currently operates at about 2.2 million gallons a day. Engineering studies show there is a possibility to bring the plant up to a capacity of 10 million gallons each day.

The city has a permit to operate at the 10 million-gallon level but has not had the need or the system to maximize the production of filtered water.

Based on the statistics provided by engineers from Clark Patterson Lee, consultants, the proposal could double the daily production if all the neighboring communities are part of the distribution system. Currently, letters of support have been received from most of the communities with the exception of Dunkirk and Fredonia.

Sam Drayo, attorney for Fredonia, said leaders from that community have not received enough information to make a decision.

He said they would be concerned that supporting the project could mean closing their water filtration plant.

Fredonia does not have a meeting scheduled prior to the Aug. 12 deadline. Engineering representatives said the application would go forward without including the village.

The grant is seeking $7 million toward an estimated $38 million to create the distribution system.

Details on the repayment of costs were not finalized by officials.