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December 17, 2020 - 12:01pm

Grant from state program triggers Town of Batavia's water district consolidation initiative

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Town Board.

The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night took the first step toward consolidating all of town’s water districts into one by passing a resolution to accept a $45,930 grant from the New York State Department of State’s Citizens Reorganization Empowerment Implementation program.

Town Supervisor Gregory Post said that the grant will cover the costs of engineering services provided by staff and outside consultants to put together a plan to combine the town’s 30 or so water districts and improvement areas into a single water district to be known as the Town of Batavia Consolidated Water District.

“This is something that we have been working toward for the past 15 years, and the grant gives us the opportunity to get it started,” Post said. “In fact, I have advocated for this for the 35 years that I’ve been involved in town government.”

Post said that consolidation will save the town money in the areas of water district management and administration, and will pave the way for an asset management and capital improvement plan in a cost-efficient manner.

“I expect that we will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in future administrative costs, while also putting us in line with state regulations,” he said.

Post said it behooves the town to start this process now as much of the water pipeline that was constructed in the early 1970s is nearing the end of its lifespan. He also said the town was called out by the state Comptroller for not keeping separate accounts of each of the town’s more than 30 water districts.

“By consolidating into one, we will be able to spread the cost of debt through all town water users and meet state requirements,” he said, noting that the town did merge a few water districts previously.

“Many users haven’t paid any water debt in 20 years; they’re just paying for the water. But those in the newer districts won’t be able to get water if the old pipes fail. Consolidation would equalize the cost across the board, and everybody will reap the benefits.”

Currently, residents in about 15 water districts are paying some level of debt service via a special district tax.

The supervisor said the town would be in a better position in terms of economic development as well by “leveraging all commercial, industrial and residential areas into a common resource.”

Post did acknowledge that the move to consolidation could be somewhat controversial, but it would be “unaffordable for those in districts with aging pipelines that become not suitable to have to pay 100 percent of the costs (to repair or replace them).”

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said his staff will begin work next month on drafting a report detailing the consolidation plan and hopes it will be ready by this summer. He also said public information meetings will be scheduled.

“We want to make sure that everybody affected by this is part of the process,” he said.

In other developments:

  • The board approved a resolution appointing James Kirsch to the position of assessment aide at a wage of $26.78 per hour and not to exceed 15 hours per week, effective Dec. 21.
  • Town Clerk Teressa Morasco reported that the 2021 town/county tax bills will go out on Dec. 31 and, due to COVID-19, residents paying by check or money order are encouraged to mail their payments to Town of Batavia Tax Collector, P.O. Box 108, Warsaw, NY 14569 (going to the town’s bank) or utilize the drop box located by the Town Hall’s front door on West Main Street Road.

If paying by cash, payments will be accepted at the drive-up window from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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