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Editorial: A sensible merger for Amherst, Williamsville

Officials of Amherst and Williamsville have a great idea – again. They are looking at combining their sanitary sewer systems and, given the possible cost savings – and the craziness of paying for separate systems – the municipalities should proceed expeditiously.

Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa, who previously served as the village’s mayor, just a couple of years ago identified the sanitary sewer system as one of Williamsville’s major challenges. In 2017, the system accounted for 40 percent of the village’s budget. He said, then: “The sanitary sewer is a problem from a number of ways you look at it. We have, and always will have, infiltration and inflow issues.”

Inflow occurs when groundwater or stormwater enters the sanitary sewers through improper connections. Leaks into the pipes are known as infiltration.

Kulpa’s successor as mayor, Daniel DeLano, also supported combining the two systems. DeLano did not seek reelection after serving a one-year term in 2018. Now, it is up to Kulpa and Williamsville Mayor Deb Rogers to find a way forward.

The town and village separately operate their sanitary sewers, although the village system is connected to the town system. It carries village wastewater to the town treatment plant. Kulpa said both systems require costly repairs to limit inflow and infiltration.

One problem is rainfall. An overabundance of water entering the sanitary system can cause sewer backups or overflows. If this spring’s rains count as a sign of things to come – and there is reason to think they do – then without action, the problem will only become worse.

In addition, the town is under a consent order with state environmental regulators to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows. Kulpa said problems in the village system have led to overflows in the town’s network.

Consider potential cost-savings, as outlined a couple of years ago by a panel reviewing shared services projects in Erie County. It recommended then that the town and village consider sanitary sewer consolidation.
Together, these issues make this a critical time finally to address this problem.

Coming to an agreement will take time as issues such as costs are evaluated. Kulpa, for example, wants to be sure town residents don’t pay a disproportionate share of the costs of consolidation.

But at least the Village Board and the Town Board have agreed to study the financial implications of consolidation, how a merger would work and, just as important, whether the town and village can secure grants to offset costs and pay for repairs to the Williamsville system.

Serious discussion about consolidating key infrastructure is taking place. It is an important step that residents of both municipalities should encourage.

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