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Genesee County Water Project

Hens: Weekend's heat, humidity 'stressed' water system

By Mike Pettinella

This past weekend’s high temperatures and humidity created some high anxiety for Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, the person in charge of overseeing the municipality’s water supply.

“It was a stressful weekend,” Hens said, reporting to the County Legislature’s Public Service Committee on Monday afternoon.

Hens said the county water was being produced “100 percent off wells” over the weekend, adding that Well C in the City of Batavia was active and “came in very handy.”

This summer’s dry conditions have resulted in the groundwater dropping five to six inches a week, he said, slowing down the production of Well A. Furthermore, the city had to stop using creek water on Saturday afternoon because of the increased turbidity (mud) levels.

“Between (Wells) A, B and C, we were producing about 2.5 million gallons, which is 2 million short of the demand of the city plant that day,” he noted, adding the system relied on the tanks for most of the day Saturday.

The situation was a bit brighter on Monday morning, he said, as the system was “pushing out about 3.7 million gallons” – with the city able to access creek water once again.

Looking ahead, he said the heat and humidity are expected to subside and he hopes things return to normal.

In a related development, the PSC approved Hens’ request to apply for a Water Infrastructure Investment Act grant to assist with project cost escalation related to the completion of the Genesee County Phase 2 water supply upgrades.

Hens said the WIIA program provides up to 60 percent of the capital project costs up to $5 million.

The total anticipated costs related to the remaining Phase 2 water supply upgrades are estimated at $1.6 million. The WIIA grant, if successful, would fund up to 60 percent of these additional project costs. 

Committee backs increase in sales tax allocation to $8.5 million; Batavian Gerace hired to assist with water project

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee today acted upon a suggestion by the Pembroke Town Board to increase the amount of sales tax earmarked for distribution to towns and villages by passing a resolution amending the county’s sales tax allocation agreement with the City of Batavia.

Meeting at the county Emergency Management Services office on State Street Road, the committee approved a restated contract with the city – which along with the county is one of the two taxing municipalities in Genesee County.

The amended agreement ups the amount of sales tax revenue the county is willing to share with its towns and villages over the next 38 years from $7 million to $8.5 million.

It also drops the amount of other revenue the county will distribute – on a periodic basis – from $3 million to $1.5 million – keeping the total amount at the $10 million level that county leaders felt comfortable sharing.

This latest legislation, which is subject to final approval by the full legislature at its Aug. 25 meeting, was triggered by the recent opting in of revised water supply agreements with the county by the Village of Corfu and the Town of Pembroke.

When the Pembroke Town Board voted to opt in to a new water agreement last week – leaving the Town of Darien as the lone municipality to not sign on to a new deal, Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. proposed increasing the fixed sales tax distribution amount.

Genesee County, with a goal of equalizing water rates across the board and having the ability to raise the water surcharge as its Countywide Water Supply Project progresses, initially offered to distribute $10 million in sales tax money as long as all 17 towns and villages opted in to new water supply agreements. If not, then the split was going to be $7 million in sales tax and $3 million in other revenue.

Following today’s Ways & Means meeting, County Manager Matt Landers acknowledged that Pembroke’s suggestion was well received by the legislature.

“The legislature was supportive of moving from $7 million to $8.5 (million) because it does help those towns and villages with their accounting issues that came to light by not being able to share revenue distribution into their B funds,” he said.

“So, the legislature was receptive to the opportunity to share extra sales tax as we understood the Town of Pembroke’s position, seeing that Corfu has already passed it and Darien had not passed it. Pembroke was left thinking what’s the advantage for them to sign the updated water supply agreement if there wasn’t going to be an increase over the $7 million.”

When asked about the status of the Town of Darien, Landers said he continues to speak with officials there and is hopeful that something can be worked out prior to the legislature taking up the final resolution next week.

In other developments, Ways & Means:

-- Approved a request by County Attorney Kevin Earl to extend the statute that spells out the county’s hotel/motel room occupancy tax by three months – through the end of the fiscal year – as the legislature attempts to sort out whether to pass a long-term revision that would include taxation of online booking platforms, such as Airbnb.

“It would be a major change if we did it right now,” Earl said, referring to drafting complex changes at this time. “So, what I’m proposing is to extend the current law to the end of the year … and, obviously, the final one that we propose would be for three years starting in January.”

Legislators have been grappling with this issue for several months, reaching out to Chamber of Commerce staff members for their input in how to capture a portion of the income being generated by increasingly-popular home-based lodging sites.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg agreed that it would be wise to wait before enacting a permanent bed tax law because “I don’t know if we’ve really come to terms with all that is involved …”

-- Welcomed Batavia native Justin Gerace on his first day as a county assistant engineer, with his primary responsibility focusing on helping to facilitate the long-term Countywide Water Supply Project.

A 2014 Batavia High School graduate, Gerace earned his associate’s degree in Engineering Science from Genesee Community College before transferring to the University of Buffalo. At UB, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s degree in Structural and Earthquake Engineering.


Last fall, he worked for the structural engineering firm of Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger in New York City, but said he felt the call to return to his roots.

Previously, he was an intern for LaBella Associates in Rochester and for Arup in New York City.

“(County Engineer) Tim (Hens) informed me of this position .. and I thought it was a good fit,” he said. “I will be able to stay local and be near my family.”

Gerace acknowledged a “big learning curve” as he studies documents and visits water pump stations in and around Genesee County.

“I’m excited … I know there’s work to be done over the next 10 or 15 years,” he said, noting the county is moving into Phase 3 of the water project. “Just getting up to speed on all of the moving parts. It’s pretty daunting.”

Resolutions continue to flow as Genesee leadership sets sights on Phase 3 of Countywide Water Program

By Mike Pettinella

It might not be fair to say that Genesee County is desperate for water, but when you slice it and dice it, Genesee County is desperate for water.

County officials -- understanding the impact that water has on the future of economic development -- are going all out in an effort to pump another 7.6 million gallons a day into the municipality.

On Monday afternoon, the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee recommended approval of four resolutions on measures designed to increase or enhance the water supply.

County Engineer/Highway Superintendent Tim Hens (photo at right) provided details about the resolutions as he looks forward to wrapping up Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program and embarking upon Phase 3, a $90 million project that would increase significantly the daily capacity of water.

All four resolutions likely will be on the agenda of the full legislature meeting on July 28 at the Old County Courthouse.

The four resolutions, with comments from Hens, are as follows:

-- A contract with the consulting firm of Clark Patterson Lee in the amount of $950,00 for a Basis of Design Report and Source Supply Change Studies for Phase 3.

“In Phase 2, which we started in the fall of 2019, at the outset we were kind of behind the 8-ball, so we rushed some things. We started working on the actual design documents for construction bidding somewhat concurrent with the Basis of Design, which is the document used for the Monroe County Water Authority to say exactly how they want things constructed,” Hens said.

“So, were doing a lot of things in parallel – the environmental work, the land acquisition – and, at the end of the day, even though we were trying to make things go faster, I think it just got more confusing for folks and it slowed down the review process quite a bit.

“This time, were not quite behind the 8-ball as we were with Phase 2 – we have a little bit of time, albeit not a lot, so we’re going to get the Basis of Design squared away with Monroe County so we know exactly how they want everything built, what types of pumps they want to use, what type of pipe material – things like that – and get that squared away before we actually put together construction documents for bidding.

“I think that will make the designs for the project move a little smoother and will make the timeline ultimately a little bit shorter.”

Hens said the Basis of Design outlines how the system will work: How the hydraulics between the Genesee County system and the Monroe County system mesh, and determines the required pump speeds and flow rates.

The $950,000 contract includes many “pieces and parts,” Hens said, adding that CPL will not be receiving all of that money (which is being expended from the County Water Fund).

“There are a lot of subcontracts for geotechnical exploration, contracts for land acquisitions and easements. Also, part of the contract is the Source Supply Change.

“With 7.6 million more gallons coming in through Phase 3, that’s enough to basically shut off the City of Batavia water plant. When we do that, the water chemistry from Monroe County is slightly different from the water chemistry in the City of Batavia.

So, if we’re going to replace the city water plant and use Monroe County water, we want to make sure the chemistry lines up and we don’t run into a Flint, Michigan-type of situation (high lead levels). There’s a fairly sizeable chunk of that $950,000 that is dedicated to doing the analysis on the water chemistry to make sure we don’t have that problem.”

-- Rejection of bids for construction of new chlorination stations for Phase 2.

Hens said that the county is at the midpoint of Phase 2, having completed water main work on Vallance Road and North Road in crossing the Thruway in Le Roy, water main work on Chestnut Ridge Road in Chili, new pump stations in Mumford and Churchville.

Several pump station upgrades are in the works in Le Roy and three locations in Monroe County, and another is being built on Golden Road in Chili. That construction is set to take place through the winter, with completion earmarked for next summer.

As far as new chlorination stations, Hens said the county solicited bids to contractors to build three small sheds spread out around the county that had little chlorination injection pumps in them to re-chlorinate the water once the chlorine dissipates.

“The bids we got back were ridiculous; they were probably three to four times more than we thought they were going to be,” he said, reporting that hopes of spending $200,000 for this project was going to be at least $600,000. “And we just don’t have the money to spend on these stations.”

So, Hens turned to Town of Batavia Engineer Steve Mountain, and they agreed that the town will install temporary, skid-mounted systems inside the bases of the water tanks. “That will fix the problem and a much cheaper cost,” he said. “The county will then reimburse the town for the expense.”

-- Rejection of bids for a disinfectant byproduct removal system within the Village of Oakfield water storage tank for Phase 2.

“So, THM (Trihalomethane) is a chemical that builds up in water over time as the chlorine dissipates and breaks down into other things. Typically, what you do is put a spray system into the storage tanks and it takes the chemical out of the water,” he said.

“Again, the bids for this were crazy expensive so we’re looking at doing a different method that's quite a bit cheaper, and we’re having conversations with the Village of Oakfield about that.”

-- A contract with the Carpi & Clay lobbying firm of Washington, D.C., for up to $60,000 to seek grant and other funding for Phase 3.

“There’s a lot of new money for infrastructure in Washington, D.C., right now; there’s a lot of money for water. With the cost of Phase 3, we want to get as much outside help as we can to get federal aid to support our projects, rather than putting it all on the backs of county residents,” he said.

The contract calls for the county to pay $7,000 per month to Carpi & Clay at least through the end of this year, with the stipulation that the firm provides detailed reports of its activities.

Hens said the original estimate for Phase 3 was $76 million but due to inflated construction costs, that figure likely will increase to $90 million or more.

The net result in water supply will be about 3.1 million gallons per day, he said, when considering that the 4.5 million gallons generated by the City of Batavia water plant will be removed from play.

“That still helps us considerably,” he advised.



Hens said that last weekend’s heavy rain has raised the groundwater levels up by about eight inches, a good sign for the aquifer heading into August.

“How the aquifer works is that you normally see your highest levels in March and early April,” he said. “Seasonally, as the snow melts and things start to dry out, the groundwater will drop in pretty much a straight line through the summer and into the fall. When you get into the November and December timeframe, sometime into early January, that drops stops and it starts climbing.

“We were on a path as of a week ago, the groundwater was dropping by a half-inch a day, pretty routinely. We were scheduled to drop by another six feet by December. We’re already pretty low; we probably would have been at record level lows by then.”

Hens said he sees the bump in the aquifer as just a temporary respite.

“I think we will continue to drop once we get through this wet period, but I don’t think our drop is going to be as deep as we thought it would be. The deeper the groundwater, the harder it is to pump,” he said.

“A lot of the spike in usage in the summer is related to people filling pools, washing their cars, watering their lawns and gardens – that’s where all the extra water usage comes from. We’ve seen that drop off substantially due to the amount of wet weather we’ve been having. That’s got us knocked back to wintertime water level usage.”

Hens reported that as of yesterday, per day water usage in the city was at 2.8 million gallons – down from the peak usage level of 4.3 million gallons, while Monroe County Water Authority usage dropped back from about 3 million gallons per day at the end of June to 2.2 million gallons per day.

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