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Town of Darien

August 25, 2021 - 8:52pm

This afternoon’s approval of a new sales tax allocation agreement with the City of Batavia – a move that clears the way for the annual distribution of $10 million in sales tax revenue to Genesee County towns and villages – was a significant moment in the eyes of County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein.

So significant, in fact, that she marked the occasion with a resounding swing of her gavel on its wooden block.

“I’m excited (by this),” she said after legislators unanimously passed the “Modified Amended and Restated Sales Tax Allocation Agreement Between the County of Genesee and the City of Batavia.”

Stein, no doubt, also was relieved that lawmakers passed this and a subsequent, connected resolution ratifying the Town of Darien’s willingness to enter into an “Amended and Restated Water Supply Agreement” with the county.

On the first resolution, the sales tax allocation agreement between the city and county doesn’t change, but it does add wording statilng that the city has no objections to the county’s plan to distribute $10 million in sales tax money collected on a yearly basis to the towns and villages for the next 38 years.

The second resolution was made possible when the Darien Town Board, on Wednesday night, voted to sign a new water supply agreement with Genesee County. Darien was the last municipality to opt in and, by doing so, enables the county to share the full $10 million in sales tax and not a combination of sales tax and other revenue.

The new water supply contract – it’s the same for all municipalities – gives the county the right to raise the surcharge on water usage beyond the 60-cents per 1,000 gallons level, but also requires the county to petition the Monroe County Water Authority in seven years to enact an equalized water rate throughout the county.

“Sharing the $10 million was the goal of this legislature,” Stein said, as she congratulated her colleagues on achieving that goal.

In other action, the legislature voted in favor of contracting with EFPR Group, CPAs, PLLC, of Williamsville, a consulting firm, for assistance in how to spend money received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The contract is for up to $10,000 for the two years of the contract, which includes the option of three, one-year renewals. The cost will be paid from ARPA funds.

County Manager Matt Landers told legislators that the ARPA grant can be used to fund water and broadband projects, but there are “a lot of nuances” to the guidelines. He said EFRP has “extensive experience” in this area and is familiar with the process.

Landers also said he doesn’t think it will cost $10,000 in the first year, but probably closer to $5,000.

Previously: Darien opts in to water agreement after receiving assurances that county will pursue equalized rate

August 25, 2021 - 10:56am

darien_board_1.jpg

The Darien Town Board, in an “eleventh hour” meeting Tuesday night, unanimously passed an amended and restated water supply agreement with Genesee County that includes a stipulation that in seven years the county legislature will petition the Monroe County Water Authority to equalize water rates for all retail customers in the county.

Previously, the board had voted against opting in to the county’s revised water supply proposal, reasoning that the town (along with the Town of Pembroke and Village of Corfu) had been paying more for water than other municipalities all along and shouldn't have to face additional surcharges.

But, last night, after continued talks with County Manager Matt Landers – and receiving assurances that the county will move toward a unified water rate -- the board reconsidered, and joined the county’s other towns and villages by passing the resolution following a 35-minute discussion at the town hall.

The 5-0 vote came a day before the county’s deadline for municipalities to decide whether or not to opt in. The full legislature is expected to vote on the unified water supply agreement at a meeting this afternoon at the Old County Courthouse.

Darien Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. said the agreement “is not pretty” and called it “a fix of something that we didn’t create.”

“They (legislature) created the problem and it seems like we’re the ones having to fix it,” he said.

Ferry and the town’s council members -- Michael Grant, David Krzemien, Timothy Benton and Michael Fix – said they didn’t agree with the county tying water supply agreements with sales tax distribution.

Several weeks ago, the county came up with an idea to share $10 million annually for 38 years in sales tax revenue with its towns and villages as long as all of the municipalities opted in to revised water supply agreements.

That looks as though that will happen now that Darien has opted in. The town stands to receive $970,942 annually for the 38 years in sales tax distribution.

Ferry said his board held out until it received something in writing that the county would take steps to ensure a unified, equalized water rate.

“It is not a strongly worded agreement, but it is an irrevocable resolution,” he said. “The other thing is that it kind of holds the legislature’s feet to the fire, although not as much as I wanted. But it does give us something to shoot for.”

He said the agreement is a good thing for the town, but for those in the five water districts, “they’re going to feel a 60-cent per thousand (gallons) hit.”

The Darien board was able to get the county to add a paragraph to the water supply agreement that states the following:

Notwithstanding any other provisions herein, at seven (7) years after the date of full execution of this Amended and Restated Agreement, the County Legislature shall adopt and submit to the Monroe County Water Authority an irrevocable resolution urging and recommending that the Authority equalize the water rates for all retail customers in Genesee County. Upon failure of the County to timely comply with this requirement, the surcharge rate shall automatically revert to the rate as per Paragraph 6 herein (60 cents) with no additional action needed by either party; provided further that this reversion to 60 cents for each one thousand gallons of water used shall not be applied retroactively.

Krzemien acknowledged that the revision was “a step in the right direction,” but wondered about the status of the town’s current agreement. Ferry said once they signed the new one, the other would be nullified.

Grant said he had problems with the word “timely” in the added paragraph.

“What does timely mean?” he asked. “Timely doesn’t mean (anything) to me. What is going to bind the legislature to follow through after seven years?”

Ferry said the county plans to shut down the City of Batavia water plant, which would pave the way for all municipalities to get their water from MCWA and allow the legislature to “take in the entire county and equalize the rate.”

“It’s not going to happen for six years; 2027 is the projected date of that happening,” he said, adding that equalization can’t happen unless the city and the Town of Batavia become retail customers like the other towns and villages.

Contacted this morning, Landers said the agreement with Darien is the same as every other contract, with the “minor change that will give better assurances to the Town of Darien that the county is going to follow through on what are plan ultimately is – an equalized retail MCWA rate throughout Genesee County.”

“That is something that we have long talked about what the future holds,” he said.

Landers said that in seven years, the county will request MCWA to create an equalized, countywide retail rate.

“Right now, there are different retail rates. Customers on the Western side of the county – Darien, Corfu, Pembroke – pay a higher retail rate because their water comes from Erie County. That’s the only difference there is in this agreement,” he explained.

He said he will be sending a letter out to the Towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu.

“If the legislature passes this agreement, I am going to send out a letter, giving them 120 days’ notice as is required in the agreement,” he said. “We can’t raise the rate to $1.20 effective tomorrow. We have to give 120 days’ notification. The rate won’t take effect – that $1.20 – until after 120 days have passed.

“We did the same thing with the other agreements.  If we ever raise the rate above $1.20, we have to give 120 days’ notification for that as well.”

Landers said the county could act toward equalizing the water rate now, but it would be best to wait until city residents enter the retail customer pool.

“The shutting of the city plant and the addition of city retail customers into the pool make the overall rate go down, but it’s not a requirement. Technically speaking, we could go retail now without city customers included because they wouldn’t and they’re not retail customers of MCWA. You would just have the outer towns,” he said. “But it makes sense to equalize once you have more customers to bring the rate down. Once the city is a retail customer, that’s the bigger trigger -- whether the plant is closed or not.”

He said the plan is for that to happen within seven years as the county continues to bring in more water as part of Phase 3 of its Countywide Water Supply Project.

In the end, Landers said he appreciates the efforts of the municipalities on the West side of the county.

“I know that we didn’t always agree, but I appreciate the efforts that Steve and his board went through to consider this – along with the Town of Pembroke and Village of Corfu,” he said. “I’m glad we came to this resolution and, in the end, I think it’s better for everyone. I’m going to remain optimistic and positive.”

Photo: The Darien Town Board at its meeting last night, clockwise from left, Steve Ferry Jr., Deputy Clerk Gwen Yoder, David Krzemien, Timothy Benton, Michael Fix and Michael Grant. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 13, 2021 - 5:49pm

And then there was one.

The Pembroke Town Board on Thursday night voted, 5-0, to sign an amended water supply agreement with Genesee County, leaving the Town of Darien as the lone municipality not to opt in to a contract that would set the stage for $10 million in sales tax distribution from the county to its towns and villages over the next 38 years.

“We felt that it was more important to secure sales tax funding than to hold out on the water agreement,” Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said. “In good faith, we believed that it was best to mend some fences with the county.”

In a previous story on The Batavian, Schneider indicated there were some hard feelings over the way water agreements were handled in the past, but the current board is willing to give county leaders the benefit of the doubt – believing that the legislature will attain its goal of equalizing the water surcharge.

Schneider also said he talked to County Manager Matt Landers about the potential of “bumping up” the guaranteed sales tax money to be shared with the municipalities in light of the Village of Corfu (at the end of July) and Town of Pembroke opting in.

PEMBROKE MAKES COUNTEROFFER

“Hopefully, we are thinking that the $7 million in sales tax distribution could go to maybe eight or eight and a half million – based on having Corfu and Pembroke on board.”

Genesee County’s offer to distribute $10 million in straight sales tax revenue is contingent upon universal buy-in from its towns and villages.

Without that universal buy-in, the proposal is to distribute $7 million in annual sales tax revenue and an additional $3 million in other revenue on a periodic basis over the next 38 years.

Municipalities not opting in would receive less in revenue distribution than expected to allow for the equalization of water surcharge revenue.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein was asked if lawmakers would consider Schneider’s proposal to increase the guaranteed sales tax distribution.

Choosing her words carefully, she replied, “Here’s what I’m going to say: Let us do our work.”

“We have not met and we won’t until Monday. So, there’s a process that we follow and let us do our work. But, certainly, that suggestion is taken and welcomed.”

FIXING UNBALANCED TAX RATES

Currently, the county’s revenue sharing process has created a situation, per state law, where towns with villages inside them have to keep two separate books and have two separate tax rates – an A fund for townwide sales tax that affects everyone and a B fund for sales tax that only affects the services of taxpayers outside the village.

Stein said the legislature’s focus has been “to be able to direct that revenue sharing into the B funds of those towns and villages; that is our focus for this entire process. And, if we can find a way to get there together, that’s our goal.”

She previously explained that the $10 million figure that the county is committed to putting into the sales tax agreement would fix the unbalanced A and B tax rate.

When asked if she thought the Darien Town Board would change is mind and opt in, Stein said she that if it did reconsider, it would need to be mindful that the county has a timetable to adhere to “that is significant because our calendar has already started.”

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee is expected to address the situation at its meeting this Monday, with the full legislature scheduled to vote on a distribution amount on Aug. 25.

“Plus, the City of Batavia has to do this at their meetings in September and the (New York State) Office of Comptroller needs 60 to 90 days and we already want to be able to distribute our third quarter payments (in October) as sales tax,” Stein advised.

“Time is not our friend right now,” she said. “But for those six towns that have the B funds or that have villages in their towns, it is truly meaningful for their more rural taxpayers to rebalance that property tax imbalance that is occurring right now for them.”

PURSUING WATER RATE EQUALIZATION

Landers said he was “happy” to learn that Pembroke passed the resolution.

“I know that they will be hopeful that the county as a whole, not just Genesee County but the towns, will remember this 5-0 vote when it comes time for the equalization of the retail water rate charged by the Monroe County Water Authority,” he said.

“The county can recommend an equalized retail rate and, again, I’m certain that Pembroke is hoping for a spirit of cooperation seeing that they agreed to sign this agreement because they know it is best for the county as a whole.  It is in everyone’s best interest to have an equalized rate because it allows for the free flow of water a little easier between the center and western parts of the county.”

Landers explained that the original agreements with towns and villages dating back to the early 2000s each had “little nuances in them,” with different considerations.

“When the county took over individual water systems, the county water fund would make some compensation sometimes for that,” he said. “For example, we paid off some of the debt of the Corfu water plant for that village. All of the amended water supply agreements that the county have undertaken over the last three or four years have been uniform; we wanted to make sure that they’re all the same.”

The new agreements allow for the county, with proper notification and justification, to increase the surcharge above 60 cents (per 1,000 gallons). The original agreements were frozen at 60 cents but since then, the later agreements raised it to $1.20 to pay for Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Project.

CLEANING UP THE LANGUAGE

The county manager said one of the sticking points was the county removing erroneous language in the initial agreements that guaranteed supplying water to the municipalities.

“It’s erroneous in the sense that the Monroe County Water Authority, in our agreement with them, can’t guarantee us water; there are things that can happen,” he said. “It is difficult for us to guarantee something that’s not guaranteed to us.”

He said that changes had to be made “because we need water to pay for water.”

“When we go to Phase 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 (of the Countywide Water Supply Project), if there needs to be an increase (in the surcharge) to pay for the debt service, there needs to be a way to pay for it,” he said, adding that 20- to 30-year cash flow projections – including the retirement of some debt service -- indicate that the surcharge should not increase that much, if at all.

Landers said that he continues to speak to Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. about his board’s decision.

“If Darien passed a resolution next week and they signed the water agreement, it is possible that the amount in the resolution on the floor of the legislature on August 25th could be amended to be increased to $10 million,” he said. “I still have hope that we can find a path forward so that we can share the full $10 million in sales tax, and have everyone on the same water supply agreement.”

Asked if Ferry has sought concessions from the county, understanding that Darien has been paying more for water than other towns and villages, Landers would not go there.

“I don’t want to get into the subject of proposals back and forth,” he said. “I want all of that to be discussed between him and I, and our legislature and his board.”

Previously: Darien Town Board votes to not accept county's updated water agreement offer; Corfu signs on; Pembroke TBD.

Previously: Ways & Means passes measures rescinding revenue distribution payments, accepting HCA with Plug Power.

August 9, 2021 - 8:51am

Village of Corfu? In.

Town of Darien? Out.

Town of Pembroke? To be determined.

That’s the status of three municipalities on the western side of Genesee in the county’s quest to achieve updated water supply agreements from all towns and villages leading up to a proposed $10 million annual sales tax distribution plan.

Corfu, Darien and Pembroke had been holding out on signing the amended water agreements since early July when the Genesee County Legislature introduced its potential solution to revenue distribution by linking it to a reworking of current water supply pacts.

On July 28th, Corfu trustees voted to accept the agreement.

Last week, Darien Town council members voted, 5-0, to not accept the county’s offer.

And this coming Thursday (Aug. 12), the Pembroke Town Board is scheduled to vote on the issue.

A $10 MILLION OFFER

As previously reported, the county needs universal buy-in to the updated water agreements to set a plan in motion to distribute $10 million in sales tax revenue to municipalities over the next 38 years.

Without all towns and villages opting in, the county is proposing to distribute $7 million in annual sales tax revenue and another $3 million in other revenue on a periodic basis over the next 38 years. Municipalities not opting in would receive less in revenue distribution than expected to allow for the equalization of water surcharge revenue.

Contacted Sunday, County Manager Matt Landers explained that money would have to be withheld from communities that don’t sign the agreement to ensure that the water fund is made whole.

“In those cases, it will be the entire community paying for it and not just the water users,” he said. “For the Town of Darien, we’ll make sure water consumption is covered at $1.20 (per 1,000 gallons) if it can’t be covered by a surcharge because there’s a valid contract in place only charging them 60 cents. So, we’ll just have to equalize that through lower revenue distribution payments.”

Landers said he respects Darien’s decision, but welcomes further discussion with Darien Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. and the board.

“We would love to have a $10 million sales tax sharing agreement in place for the next 38 years to provide that guaranteed revenue source to all towns and villages, but Darien is going to do what it feels is best,” he said. “I understand he’s (Ferry) doing what he believes is in the best interests of his constituents, which a town supervisor would do. I happen to disagree.”

DARIEN BOARD NOT CONVINCED

Ferry said his board rejected the county’s idea for several reasons.

“We have a water agreement in place,” he said. “This is the same resolution that they offered in 2018 and the board, then, rejected it. It was a totally different board but the outcome was the same, a vote of five to nothing.”

He said Darien officials are looking for a master plan to see “what was going to happen in the future” and also for movement toward an equitable, unified water rate in the county.

“We felt that our positioning was that if we signed it, they would still ignore us. So, we did not sign it because it is the only bargaining position that we have,” he advised.

Ferry said the county “ditched the sales tax agreement in 2018 with the towns and village in favor of a contract with the City of Batavia, and now they want us to try and fix it.”

“The two (water and sales tax) shouldn’t even be connected,” he said. “Why is it that we’re tying them together now?”

FERRY: ‘GIVE US A BONE’

When it was mentioned that the Town of Darien would receive less in revenue than entitled to based on assessed valuation, Ferry said, “Possibly, but then again, possibly, I call the AG’s (New York State Attorney General) office.”

“I’m saying, ‘Work with us here. Give us a bone.’ And they did nothing. They would not even produce a letter stating that they would try to equalize the rate within X amount of years – because I think they don’t think they can.”

Ferry said the Town of Darien pays $1.12 more per 1,000 gallons of water than other communities.

“If they make the claim that water pays for water, we on the western side of the county have been paying more for our water to get water out here,” he said. “If the east and the central part need water, why not make them pay more?

“We represent our constituents and if we were to sign this contract … in addition to the old one, and they get charged 60 cents more per thousand (gallons) right off the bat, what else do they get out of that contract? We can’t enter into an agreement that is worse than the one we have without something as an offset.”

Landers said by opting in to updated water agreements, municipalities are ensuring that their water users are paying their fair share of the cost for water.

“One way or the other, Darien will still pay the additional costs – it’s a matter if they want to pay through the entire town or through the water users,” he said. “I still hope and there’s still time since I’ll be back in the office tomorrow and will reach out to Steven and see if there’s anything else that I can communicate.”

LANDERS OPEN TO MORE TALK

He said that he and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein presented the plan at meetings of the Village of Corfu and Town of Pembroke boards, and indicated that Ferry attended the Corfu meeting as well while another Darien council member was at the Pembroke meeting.

Landers also said he would like to address the entire Town of Darien board – something that hasn’t happened yet – as the deadline for towns and villages to make their intentions known is this Friday.

“I’d be more than willing to have further talks with Steve,” he said. “I’m 100 percent available to Steve and the Darien Town Board to talk some more, and until the 13th comes and goes, there is still an opportunity.”

Calling it a “complex issue,” Landers said the original water agreement has limitations to it as it has a fixed 60-cent surcharge (per 1,000 gallons).

“Genesee County is responsible for bringing an adequate supply of water into the county, and we have incurred significant monies beyond Phase 1 into Phase 2, and now going into Phase 3. If we truly want water paying for water, we can’t live by water supply agreements that are fixed at 60 cents for time in eternity,” he said.

“When we raise the surcharge, we have to raise it across the board for all users because it’s our responsibility to bring supply into the entire county. I realize that Darien and Pembroke don’t see the benefit of paying that extra 60 cents because they received their benefit from Phase 1. But with Phase 3, there will be future enhancements that will benefit them.”

Landers said he was not involved in the first round of water supply agreements with municipalities … and looking back, “the 60 cents didn’t work and that is one of the major factors that we’re trying to change with all of these updated water supply agreements; the ability to have water paying for water.”

PEMBROKE: IT’S A MATTER OF TRUST

When asked about the Town of Pembroke, he said he did not want to speculate, stating only that he has had “a good conversation” with the Pembroke Town Board.

Pembroke Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said he believes there is support for the amended agreement, but also noted “some concerns from the past over the way things have been handled, as far as agreements with the county.”

Citing lingering hard feelings, he said the county has “made agreements that they don’t seem to be concerned about breaking.”

“So, now if we sign on to this new one, what’s to say that it can’t be changed five years down the road. I think that’s the biggest concern that most people on our board have.”

Landers said it’s his job to try and build trust in all the towns and villages and hopes that “over time they will believe what we say.”

An email to Corfu Deputy Mayor Michael Doktor and a phone call to Mayor Thomas Sargent seeking comment were not returned. In fact, there has been no reply to requests from The Batavian from either village official throughout this process.

Previously: Ways & Means passes measures rescinding revenue distribution payments, accepting HCA with Plug Power.

Previously: Genesee's west side municipalities considering county legislature's sales tax/revenue distribution proposal.

July 12, 2021 - 11:08am

Governmental leaders in the towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu say they will be putting their heads together to determine how to proceed in connection with Genesee County’s new sales tax and revenue distribution proposal.

“We will be having a discussion in the coming days,” said Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. this morning as he contemplates the pros and cons of the county’s offer to either share a fixed $10 million in sales tax revenue with towns and villages, or a combination of sales tax and other revenue over the next 38 years.

As indicated in a story on The Batavian on Friday, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein presented their plan to town supervisors and village mayors last Wednesday at a meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

The amended strategy currently boils down to two options:

  • The first one being a $10 million annual distribution of sales tax revenue, contingent upon all the county’s towns and villages opting into an updated water supply agreement by mid-August;
  • The second one being that without universal update water supply agreements, the county would allot $7 million in annual sales tax distributions and pass annual revenue distribution resolutions for another $3 million – minus water surcharges to the municipalities that do not opt in.

Darien, Pembroke and Corfu have yet to agree to the revised plan.

Schneider, noting that the Town of Pembroke is proactive in “generating as much new business growth as possible,” said it is vital for his town to receive as much as possible in sales tax and/or revenue sharing.

“However, I don’t really like the fact that it’s a locked amount for 38 years,” he said. “With that, we don’t get to share in the growth, and we do include sales tax revenue in our budgets. We really don’t have a lot of power since we can’t collect sales tax.”

He said he also would like to see changes in the county’s Smart Growth plan, mentioning situations where some property owners are unable to hook into nearby water lines.

Schneider did acknowledge that the county is open to sharing more revenue over that period of time if conditions allow.

“I would think that if the county keeps more sales tax, then it would lower the tax rate or share more with the towns to take pressure off of the taxpayers,” he said, adding that Landers and Stein are scheduled to talk with Pembroke Town Board members at their workshop on July 22.

Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. mentioned that over the past 20 years, those three municipalities have been paying more for water than the other towns and villages due to the fact that the county has to buy water from Erie County “to supplement that because they can not move enough water efficiently through the county to get to us.”

“At this point in time, we’re paying $1.14 more (per 1,000 gallons) than what the rest of the county is paying,” he said, adding that no action has been proposed to provide an equalization rate to Darien, Pembroke and Corfu.

Ferry said that stabilization of the water rate would go a long way toward the Darien Town Board signing the new agreement.

“But as it stands, the agreement is a little tilted unfairly for the western side of the county,” he said.

Stein said that she spoke with Ferry over the weekend to clear up any misconceptions that he may have had.

“In a sales tax agreement, a distribution has to be straightforward and there can be no reductions to make the county whole for that water surcharge. There’s no allowance for that in a sales tax agreement per the (state) Comptroller,” she said.

As far as the $3 million figure set aside for voluntary revenue sharing based on the taxable assessed value of all the municipalities, Stein said that amount ensures there will be enough to secure the water surcharge from Darien, Corfu and Pembroke and the growth going forward for 38 years.

Stein said the county has to make sure it can make the debt payments on the bond due to the Monroe County Water Authority for bringing more water into the county as “unfortunately, there are still areas in our county that do not have access to public water.”

She said the most important aspect of the plan is that the county and City of Batavia are open to bringing towns and villages back into the sales tax agreement.

“This means that they have, for 38 years, a foundation of funding for their communities that currently they do not have,” she said. “This is a big win for every single town and village, and it allows for flexibility far forward into our future.”

Previously: Genesee County leaders present plans to distribute $10 million in sales tax/other revenue to towns and villages

March 23, 2020 - 4:10pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, town of batavia, Town of Darien, Town of Oakfield.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post is urging everyone to abide by “social distancing” mandates as he takes the necessary steps to continue providing services to residents while protecting the health of town employees.

“In order for us to get through this (COVID-19 pandemic), we continue to insist that people separate and practice social distancing,” Post said today while drafting a policy that, he says, “will maintain the status quo for the duration” of this situation.

(See press release below.)

Post said that Town offices will be closed to the public and that town employees will work from home to the extent that is practical. He said that Town Clerk Teressa Morasco will be available by telephone or email.

“Essentially, our town is well prepared for this event as we have had remote work stations and flex time for several years,” Post said. “It is not a leap to have staff work from home.”

He said he has reduced “in-house” staff to a minimum – no more than four employees in the building at any one time – and those on duty at Town Hall will work apart from each other as mandated by federal and state officials.

Post also said that the Town Court is closed with justices “on standby in the event of a significant case.” He also noted that engineering, highway and water/sewer employees are on duty and traveling in separate vehicles.

“We can take a sense of comfort in knowing that our day-to-day operations continue without any reduction, except for face-to-face meetings,” Post said, noting that internet and telephone options are being offered.

Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. said essential services such as picking up of debris and tree cutting by the highway department continue and that the Town Board is in the process of setting up governmental meetings on the internet.

“We don’t want the public to be shut out,” he said.

Ferry said he likely was speaking for all other Genesee County towns and villages when he said his primary concern was supporting the businesses in Darien while also making sure to protect the public’s health.

“Our biggest struggle is hoping that our town’s businesses will come out of this and continue to operate,” he said. “Plus, we hope that someone is keeping an eye on the welfare and unemployment situations.”

He said he believes that the decisions coming out of Albany, namely Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings, are good ones and that most people are adhering to the mandates.

While all towns and villages have adopted the social distancing norms and have suspended face-to-face interactions, the Town of Oakfield also has enlisted a group of volunteers who will pick up and deliver food and household items to elderly and disabled town and village residents.

Volunteers are instructed to deliver the goods to the door and collect payment with minimal contact.

Those wishing to utilize this service are asked to call the Oakfield Town office at 948-5835, ext. 101, and leave a message if no one answers. A volunteer will return the call.

Town and village residents are urged to go to their municipality's website for updated information.

March 1, 2019 - 1:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Town of Darien.

Barring any unforeseen roadblocks, owners of property located in the Town of Darien’s proposed Water District No. 6 will have their chance to vote in mid-April on a $25 million public water project.

Town Supervisor David Hagelberger, speaking by telephone this afternoon, said a paper ballot election will be run by town employees on or around April 10, likely between noon and 8 p.m., at the Town Hall.

“This election will decide whether this water district will go through,” Hagelberger said, adding that the exact date is expected to be announced at the Town Board’s next meeting at 7:30 p.m. March 6.

Several weeks ago it was reported on The Batavian that a “permissive referendum” – where residents in the proposed district were compelled to get enough signatures to force a vote – would be the guiding force for action.

That fell through, however, Hagelberger said, due to the fact that certain parameters of the referendum were not published in the allowed time limit.

“The residents did get enough signatures to force a vote, and we were going to do that anyway,” Hagelberger said. “In effect, the timing issue is moot. The mandatory referendum in April is set up for property owners to come in and vote.”

The supervisor said there are about 1,400 possible voters considering that people who own multiple properties only get one vote. Citizens representing a business, a church in the district and the cemetery association also get one vote.

“There are no absentee ballots either,” Hagelberger said. “Property owners have to be there to have their votes count.”

Hagelberger said the town board reported at its last meeting that the Genesee County Board of Elections will not be running the election due to constraints in state law.

“We were told that we have to run it and we’re doing what needs to be done,” he said. “There’s a lot of work going on right now that most people don’t realize.”

He said the town is working with the assessor and county clerk’s office to review property deeds to determine the correct number of property owners. The town also has to pay election inspectors, for books for people to sign and to build the property owner list.

The estimated cost to the town will be several thousand dollars, Hagelberger said.

The proposal to supply public water to an estimated 2.095 residents (two-thirds of the town’s population) comes with an annual cost of $1,275 per household -- $914 to cover the project’s debt distribution and $361 to cover water supply, operations and maintenance costs.

Due to increasing construction costs and interest rates, the project’s total price tag has gone up from $24.8 million to $25.25 million. The town is pursuing a $10.82 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to defray some of the cost.

Upfront costs to property owners, estimated at $2,000 for each parcel, will be required to pay for meter changes, account setup fees, service lines and well abandonment and/or separation fees.

The proposal to create the water district was presented initially in the fall of 2016 via a couple public meetings.

January 25, 2019 - 6:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Town of Darien, Water District No. 6.

More than two years have passed since the Darien Town Board conducted informational meetings on a proposed Water District No. 6, a multimillion dollar project that would supply public water to about two-thirds of the town’s population at a yearly cost of around $1,300 per household.

Not much has happened to move this plan closer to its logical conclusion – yes or no – until Dec. 17, 2018 when the board passed a “permissive resolution” intended to set up a ballot vote, Town Supervisor David Hagelberger said this afternoon.

“We held a public hearing on that date and afterwards, the town board voted for the permissive referendum in an effort to get a decision, either ‘yes’ you want it or ‘no’ you don’t,” Hagelberger said. “We’re (the board) not opposed to an election. Whatever the community wants (is what we want). We need to resolve this and this is a way to do it.”

As a matter of background, the town board proposed the water district to the 2,095 town residents who currently have well water. The annual cost for each household was set at $1,275 – and it remains at that level – with $914 going toward the project’s debt distribution and $361 for water supply, operations and maintenance costs.

While the price per family did not increase, the total project price tag has gone up (due to interest rate and construction cost increases) from $24.8 million to $25.25 million, and the amount of a USDA grant being sought has risen from $6.8 million to $10.82 million, Hagelberger said.

Additionally, residents were informed that costs of the initial connection, such as meter charges, account setup fees, service lines to the residence, and well abandonment and/or separation fees, would be at least $2,000.

Following the fall 2016 informational meetings, petitions were circulated to gauge town residents’ feelings on the issue, and about 400 signatures in support of the project were received. But things weren’t moving fast enough, Hagelberger said, and he and the town board “feared that this opportunity could be lost as costs continue to rise.”

That’s where the permissive referendum that calls for the creation of the water district comes in.

“The law allows us to pass this measure to force an election,” Hagelberger said, noting that another petition containing at least 100 signatures or 5 percent of residents in the water district, whatever is lower, would be needed to counteract the board’s vote and force a by-the-people election.

Hagelberger said that has been achieved – a petition of 406 signatures was turned into the Town Office on Jan. 15 – and an election must be conducted within 60 to 75 days.

“One hitch that has arisen is that we (town board) may have to pass the referendum again due to a technicality, so the window may be reset,” he said. “So, the election likely will be in March or April. We want to get this done as soon as possible.”

The fact that the project is being put to a vote sits well with Tinkham Road resident Fred Kochmanski, who was part of a small coalition of town residents who are against it but, more importantly, wanted the public to have the chance to have a direct input.

“We should have an opportunity for the people to vote; that’s the American way,” Kochmanski said.

He said that although he currently gets water through the municipality of Akron (and is happy with it), he would be forced to change providers if the vote is in favor of Water District No. 6.

“We’ve been told that there are 17 people having issues of water shortages, but there are 800 parcels in the (proposed) district,” he said. “It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog.”

Hagelberger said he remains neutral, but fears that if the measure is defeated, the town may be “left out” of getting water in the future.

“If you’ve noticed, a lot of municipalities have been getting public water lately, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen down the road with Genesee County,” he said. “The board believes this is in the best interest of the community but realizes that maybe not for each individual resident.”

Should residents vote in favor of the project, it would take about three years for construction to be complete.

September 13, 2018 - 6:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, County Legislature, Batavia City Council, Town of Darien.

If Genesee County cuts out or reduces the amount of sales tax revenue it distributes to its towns and villages, it likely will result in increased property taxes to those living in those communities.

That’s the view of Darien Town Supervisor David Hagelberger as he keeps a watchful eye on the situation while representing the Genesee Association of Municipalities on a committee working with Genesee County and City of Batavia leaders.

“Towns and villages are saying that if the county keeps all of the sales tax money, they would have no alternative but to raise local taxes to compensate,” Hagelberger said today. “If the county keeps all of it, you will see an increase in property taxes, slashing of services, depletion of fund balances or a combination thereof.”

Hagelberger said he is concerned over a couple of key issues:

-- That a new sales tax agreement between Genesee County and the City of Batavia does not include towns and villages – unlike the previous agreement that expires at the end of 2018;

-- That the County Legislature has indicated that it will forge separate agreements with the towns and villages based on a fixed dollar amount – and not a percentage that previously applied.

On Monday night, the Batavia City Council moved to vote on its agreement with the county at its next meeting on Sept. 24.

The new 40-year agreement calls for the city to receive its current 16 percent of the county’s share (Genesee County gets to keep half of the 8 percent sales tax, with the rest going to the state) through this year with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year.

If future sales tax growth exceeds 2 percent annually, the county will retain the amount above 2 percent, resulting in the city’s overall percentage share changing even though the city received additional funds. In any event, the City’s share will be no less than 14 percent for the remainder of the 40-year contract.

Meanwhile, towns and villages, which currently split 34 percent of the county’s share based on full taxable value of real property, are left out in the cold going forward, said Hagelberger, who reported that legislators on Wednesday night tabled voting on the agreement with the City of Batavia based on new information from the State Comptroller’s office.

“We have learned that the county has decided not to include us in the sales tax agreement, but will be replacing that with ‘Payment Distribution Agreements’ with the individual towns and villages,” he said. “Their proposal caps the sales tax distribution at the 2018 number – a fixed dollar amount and not a fixed percentage as in the past.”

What this means, according to Hagelberger, is that towns and villages would get the same dollar amount as they received in 2018 for the next 40 years. In the Town of Darien's case, for example, he projects sales tax revenue to exceed $1 million for this year.

“And we all know what happens with inflation and fixed incomes,” he said. “This is not good for towns and villages.”

County Manager Jay Gsell confirmed that the county is offering a fixed amount to towns and villages -- instead of a percentage – via what he termed a “Revenue Distribution Agreement.”

“The county is looking at building a new jail and spending $120 million on bridges and roads,” Gsell said. “Genesee is one of three counties in the state, by virtue of a 1938 statute, totally responsible for the maintenance, upkeep and replacements of bridges and culverts – anything going over a body of water that a vehicle can drive over.”

Gsell acknowledged that towns and villages may have to look at other revenue streams.

“Darien and Pembroke, for example, have zero town tax rates,” he said. “They have been budgeting a lion’s share through sales tax revenue.”

He also said the legislature is prepared to act on its agreement with the City of Batavia at its Sept. 26 meeting, noting that a procedural point brought up by the State Comptroller’s office forced the board to table it last night.

Hagelberger said that town supervisors are under a time crunch to submit their preliminary budgets later this month – fiscal plans that include property tax projections.

“We may not know in enough time to properly work up a budget. We have no guarantee if revenue from sales tax will go into the budget. It creates a lot of uncertainty,” he said, adding that any sales tax contract has to be approved by the State Comptroller’s office and that could impact the accuracy of final budgets which need to be completed by Nov. 28.

Hagelberger said he hopes the county will “clarify its position” soon and expects the issue to be a major part of the next GAM meeting on Sept. 20 at Genesee County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

November 3, 2016 - 2:15pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Town of Darien.

The Darien Town Board on Wednesday night approved a $3 million preliminary budget that keeps tax rates for its sewer and water districts in check and also renewed a contract with the Darien Chemical Volunteer Fire Company that keeps the tax rate the same as last year.

"I'm pleased to say that we will not need a public hearing to override the tax cap," Supervisor David Hagelberger said as about a dozen people looked on at the Town Hall. "The tax rate for fire protection will be held to this year's cap adjusted value of .68 percent."

Town residents will pay $1.05 per $1,000 of assessed valuation ($105 per year on a home assessed at $100,000) per terms of the $267,713 one-year pact with the fire company.  The town is obligated to pay $253,160 to the fire company by March 15. The additional $14,553 will be derived from revenues generated by Genesee County's revamping of its workers compensation program from assessment based to employee based.

Once again, there is no town tax in the general fund or the highway fund, while taxes to residents in the sewer district and various water districts either remain the same or decrease for 2017.

In sewer district No. 1, which takes in the hamlet of Darien Center, the levy is $395 per unit -- down 1.8 percent from last year.

In water district No. 3, the rate is $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation -- down 9 percent -- and in water district No. 5, the rate is $284 per unit -- down 11 percent, Hagelberger said.

All told, the budget is $3,057,479, with the town contributing $539,249 from its unexpended fund balance and the residents contributing $346,857 hrough taxes.

"Last year, we used $4,000 short of $800,000 to put on a highway garage addition, wilth four new bays," the supervisor said. "Even with this year's amount, we're OK, having about $1.9 million in reserves (accumulated through savings and sales tax surplus)."

Hagelberger said Darien, like most towns and villages, is "heavily dependent upon sharing sales tax revenue with Genesee County" -- funds that enable the town to operate.  

The budget reflects minimal (1-2 percent) increases to elected officials.  The highest paid is the full-time highway superintendent at $58,687, one of seven full-time town employees who receive health insurance through the town.

On another front, Hagelberger reported that 482 of 869 postcards sent out by the town to gauge the community's feelings about a proposed new water district have been returned. The early results show that most property owners are against the measure.

Thus far, the tally has 294 opposed, 183 in favor, five undecided and 387 not yet returned.

While 60 percent of the cards returned reflect opposition to the water district -- which would cost property owners around $1,275 annually in debt service and water usage -- Hagelberger said it's too early to make a valid determination of the outcome.

"We're still collecting information from property owners," he said, adding that the board doesn't want to put a deadline on returning the postcards. "It's not a vote. The real purpose is to find out if we should proceed or not. If we had a tremendous amount opposed, we wouldn't proceed. If we had a lot for it, then we would. Right now, I would say it's a mixture."

He did acknowledge that a town resident, Trina Goodman, is circulating a petition seeking signatures from those opposed to creating the water district. The project to deliver public water to those who currently have wells calls for taking out an $18 million loan for 38 years to cover the debt service, with the overall cost being reduced by a $6.8 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

"She has the right to circulate the petition, but I don't see how that provides any more information than we will get from the postcards," he said.

Goodman contends that the project is "simply too expensive" and that Genesee County could be putting pressure on the town to make this happen, which Hagelberger emphatically denied.

October 1, 2016 - 2:30pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Town of Darien, water district.

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If an informal show of hands lines up with the results of a post card survey of residents and the Darien Town Board holds true to its pledge of neutrality, then it looks as though a proposed $24.8 million project to supply public water to two-thirds of the population in the Town of Darien will not come to fruition.

About 40 of the estimated 65 people who attended an informational meeting this morning (and into the early afternoon) at the Darien Fire Hall lifted their hands in opposition, while only 10 indicated they were for the proposal, which estimates show would cost property owners, at the outset, $1,275 annually in debt service and water usage costs.

At a similar meeting attended by about 230 people on Wednesday night, Town Supervisor David Hagelberger said the show of hands indicated a 60 percent against, 40 percent in favor outcome.

Hagelberger said that the current opportunity to get public water to the 2,095 town residents who have well water is probably a "go or no go" situation.

"We've been working for 10 years at this, and today we're at a point where it is much less expensive than any of the previous alternatives," Hagelberger said. "If this doesn't go through ... it could be another 20 to 30 years."

The supervisor said the board has been working with the Monroe County Water Authority for the water supply and the USDA Rural Development to get funding for what would be called Town of Darien Water District No. 6, noting that the USDA's approval of a $6.8 million grant is necessary to bring the costs to an affordable level.

He also stressed that the board wants to carry out the wishes of its residents.

"This is an issue of whether you want this to go forward or not," he said. "People have asked us over the past couple years to get water, and we've spent a lot of effort and a lot of time to get to that point. Now, we're in line for funding, but it only works if you want it."

The board contracted wilth Steve Mountain, of Mountain Engineering, to gather pertinent cost, funding and water supply data to present to property owners in order for them to make an informed decision.

Mountain (in top photo) shared for about an hour from a PowerPoint presentation, reinforcing Hagelberger's view that now is an opportune time to create the water district because of low interest rates (currently 2.25 percent on an $18 million loan paid over 38 years), an abundant supply of water (coming from Lake Erie and administered by Monroe County), and the willingness of USDA Rural Development to offer the grant.

The projected $1,275 annual cost to the typical household to be served is broken into two parts -- $914 for the project debt distribution ($712,850 per year divided by 780 household units) and $361 for water supply and operations and maintenance cost based on current water rates. Mountain said the figure could go down, depending upon an increase in the number of units or additional grants, or up as water rates increase.

Darien residents would pay slightly more than those in recently formed water districts in Stafford, Pavilion, Oakfield and the Town of Batavia due to the need to build two water towers and a pump station.

"The topography in Darien and having to build the pump stations drives up the cost," he said.

He also informed residents that costs of the initial connection, such as meter charges, account setup fees, service lines to the residence, and well abandonment and/or separation fees, would be at least $2,000.

Businesses would be treated in the same manner as homes in computing costs, while farms would be given special consideration when it comes to usage, Mountain said.

Questions from the residents primarily dealt with costs, with some worried that the expense would ulitimately be higher than anticipated. 

Tim Hack, who moved with his family to the town last year from Kenmore, said his taxes went up by $1,000 this year and he could see them increasing to $7,000 or more should this go through.

"We have a well with a filtration system, and the water is good," Hack said. "If I want taxes this high, I could live in Clarence Center, Williamsville or Amherst. And how can you guarantee that the $914 won't go up, with delays, cost increases in materials and the bidding process?"

Mountain responded by saying that the $914 is a fixed price -- "If it goes higher than that, then the project stops," he added -- and that contingencies have been included in the project budget.

Mammot Road neighbors Darrin Wojna and Dan Janis agreed wilth Hack.

"Taxes are high enough and there is nothing wrong with the well water," Wojna said.

"When I moved out here my taxes were $1,800. Now they're up to six grand," Janis said. "Now they want to tack on $1,275 a year in taxes plus two grand to hook into it?"

Tony Mateszewski, who moved back to the town after a 30-year absence, said he calculated the cost over 38 years at $50,000.

"I can put in several deep wells for $50,000," he said. "And what about maintenance fees and inspection of my well? I have a perfectly good well and I don't need Erie County water."

The Goodmans -- Eric and Trina -- questioned the town board's process of paying for engineering and other services before coming to the residents, and also the sending post cards (requesting a yes or no vote) to property owners. Hagelberger responded by saying the board needed to get cost estimates because "you would have asked us 'how much does it cost?' " and will validate all post cards returned to the town clerk. 

Trina Goodman said she believes the board is leaning toward passage of the proposal, and said she will go "house to house" to find out what residents really want.

Again, Hagelberger said the board has no preference.

"If you have a preconceived notion that the board is in favor of this, then if so, why are we spending all this time and are here today?" he asked in reply.

In the end, tabulations from the 868 post cards that were mailed out will give the board clear direction. At least, that's what Hagelberger is hoping for.

"The last thing we want is a 50-50 split," he said. "We're doing this for the residents. We're not doing this to the residents. We're looking for a majority, (understanding) that some people are going to be unhappy no matter what."

Mountain said should the district be formed -- after either legal petitions by property owners or a vote of the town board, a public hearing and passage of a resolution -- it would take up to another three years before construction is complete.

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