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Blodgett to direct Niagara County Sewer District

LOCKPORT – Thomas W. Blodgett, who has been the engineer for the Niagara County Sewer District for more than a decade, will take over Dec. 15 as the district’s new administrative director.

Blodgett, 40, of Wheatfield, had been assigned to handle the district’s needs by CRA Infrastructure & Engineering, formerly Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, a worldwide engineering firm with a Buffalo office.

He succeeds Anthony M. Hahn, who left the district at the end of October after six years of service, to take a post as director of administrative services for the Niagara Falls Water Board.

“Tom has been the person at CRA who has been managing the sewer district for the last 12 years. He knows every nut and bolt of our system,” said Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith, chairman of the sewer district board.

“I saw a great opportunity with my background at the district and my background in wastewater,” said Blodgett, a professional engineer and a graduate of the University at Buffalo.

The district wants to pay Blodgett more than Hahn was earning, and Smith said that in order to accomplish that, the County Legislature will have to pass a budget amendment at its Dec. 9 meeting.

Hahn’s pay this year was to have been $69,810, and the tentative county budget sets a 2015 salary of $74,208.

Neither Smith nor Blodgett would say how much the pay is to be.

Smith and Blodgett met with legislators behind closed doors Tuesday.

Blodgett was chosen last week by the six town supervisors who govern the sewer district, which covers the towns of Lockport, Cambria, Wheatfield, Lewiston, Pendleton and Niagara.

Blodgett said, “It was a great fit on either side. I’ve built some great relationships over the past 10 years with these guys.”

Smith said job one for Blodgett will be to increase the district’s sewage-handling capacity without raising taxes. Property taxes account for nearly half of the district’s $6.7 million budget.

In order to accomplish that, the district needs to grapple with leaky pipes that allow rain and snowmelt to leak in, leading that water to be treated as if it were sewage and using up the treatment plant’s capacity. The problem of “inflow and infiltration,” as it’s called, is becoming serious.

“That’s the big challenge facing wastewater-treatment plants,” Blodgett said. “If you keep picking away at those (leaks), you make progress without having to build new and in some cases unnecessary infrastructure.”

Broken pipes also can be a problem. In August, Lockport traffic was clogged on several days on South Transit Road near Robinson Road by a sinkhole resulting from a collapsed 24-inch sewer main that contained asbestos.

The repair work cost $500,000, according to a County Legislature resolution passed Tuesday that appropriated money from the sewer district’s fund balance to pay for it.