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Increase in Erie County water rates will have limited impact in Elma

An increase in rates charged by the Erie County Water Authority will have limited impact in Elma, where the Town Board on Wednesday approved a 4 percent rate increase.

The added charge amounts to about 16 cents for each 1,000 gallons, which will help offset the Water Authority’s charges.

“If you use 10,000 gallons a quarter, you’re looking at $1.60 over three months,” said Water Department Superintendent Eugene F. Stevenson.

However, that increase is just a drop in the bucket compared with additional charges that most residents in Erie County will face.

Because Elma operates its own water system, the town doesn’t have to pay hydrant fees or infrastructure surcharges to the Water Authority, Stevenson said.

Elma’s minimum water bills are $18.40, and the increase will raise that figure to $19.15, Stevenson said.

By comparison, Stevenson said, the Water Authority imposes a quarterly $19.65 infrastructure surcharge on top of its water bills, something that Elma residents don’t have to pay.

“The minimum water bill for Erie County water is $28.53,” Stevenson said, “plus the quarterly infrastructure surcharge. Their smallest water bill is $48.18.”

Stevenson added that the county also imposes a summer rate surcharge from May 1 through Oct. 31, which amounts to 120 percent of the winter water bills.

“The bottom line is Elma residents are getting a pretty good deal,” said Supervisor Dennis M. Powers.

Another topic that made a splash at Wednesday’s meeting was a local law to transfer the power to appoint the Planning Board’s secretary from that panel to the Town Board.

The Town Board held a public hearing on the issue, and Diane S. Rohl, who has served as secretary to the Planning Board for nine years, questioned the move’s legality.

According to Rohl, state laws governing towns stipulate that the Town Board may create the position of secretary to the Planning Board position but that the Planning Board has the power to hire its secretary.

“There are two separate (state) comptroller opinions that it is the authority of the Planning Board to choose the secretary, not the Town Board,” Rohl said.

Powers said the Town Board’s authority is included in a state law covering municipal home rule that supersedes the state law that Rohl referenced. Rohl resigned as secretary Tuesday.