County officials address issues raised at Corfu meeting on water
Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell and Legislator Gordon Dibble have responded to the public hearing held July 9 by the Village of Corfu to address the county’s proposal to double the charge for municipal water.
Corfu officials had hoped someone from the county would attend the hearing to address residents’ concerns about the proposed increase.
However, no county representative was present at the meeting because they were not notified until the day before, Gsell said in an e-mail to The Batavian.
Apparently, Corfu Trustee Al Graham contacted Dibble about 1 p.m. Sunday to inquire if he had received any notice of Monday’s hearing. Dibble replied that he had not.
“It was too late at that point because we want to get all the people there who have the right answers,” Dibble said in a phone call today.
Gsell said they last met with the Village of Corfu officials in June and agreed to come to another village meeting with appropriate notice.
Currently, the county and village of Corfu are trying to agree on a date when all parties can attend.
Gsell has also shared a letter sent to Genesee County’s attorney by Corfu attorneys David Saleh and John Whiting with the Whiting Law Firm after the June meeting. The letter, dated July 5, which was also forwarded to MCWA, says claims were made by Corfu that the county and MCWA were ignoring the village in regard to municipal water, although Corfu has been a retail customer of the MCWA since 2001.
The MCWA told Corfu Mayor Joe Johnson the letter had been forwarded to them and it contained statements that the Village of Corfu had concerns with the services provided by MCWA’s operation and maintenance of the water system.
Several statements made by Corfu in the letter indicate the existing water system that provides water to thousands of county residents, including the residents of the village, is facing many challenges, including a crisis in maintenance of the existing water lines and other facilities.
The village wrote that the water lines running through the village are nearly 100 years old and needed attention even when these agreements were signed nearly 22 years ago.
“It was expected that efforts would be made to replace existing lines that have been subject to compromising breaks on a regular basis. In that near 20-year period, the existing lines haven’t been properly addressed and the problem is only worse,” the letter said.
Finally, the village wrote, “The Water Authority is struggling with maintenance, and the county needs to get involved to help find a solution.”
The MCWA’s Executive Director Nicholas Noce responded that this secondhand notice was the first they had heard about the Village of Corfu’s concerns.
Noce said the Village of Corfu water system was functional at the time the Water Authority and the village entered into an agreement.
He also said MCWA disagrees with the statements about struggling with maintenance and not properly addressing the system.
“This should be recognized by the nearly $2 million invested in the portion of the county’s water system in the Village of Corfu,” Noce said.
He said while there have been water main breaks in the village, those mains do not rank high enough for replacement at this time.
“Typically, age is not a criteria for water main replacement,” Noce said. “Water mains can break for several reasons, such as shifting of the ground during freeze-thaw cycles, pressure changes, casting flaws with material, or from corrosion.”
Noce said the Water Authority has a long-standing main rehabilitation program that has proven to be very effective. When compared to other water utilities across the nation through the benchmarking studies prepared by the American Water Works Association, the MCWA ranks in the national top quartile for the least number of water main breaks per 100 miles of water main.
Noce also said his organization would gladly come out to Corfu or have further discussions with the village to answer any questions about their programs. He said they have no record of receiving any direct contacts from Corfu with the above concerns.
He also reiterated the fact that since the Water Authority and the Village of Corfu entered into the retail lease agreement, the Water Authority has invested $1.95 million into the portion of the Water Authority’s system which is within the village. That investment, Noce said, paid to replace or clean and cement mortar line on approximately 48 percent of the water mains in the village; replace 70 percent of the hydrants; it rehabilitated the water storage tank; and replaced the roof on the water treatment plant (to name a few).
“If the village stayed in the water business, the village water system would have had to fund the $1.95 million of improvement and spread that cost over just 285 water customers in the village,” Noce said.