Weekly Feature



2012-03-29 / Front Page

Town reviews sewer plan, home inspection process

by KIMBERLY MCDOWELL
Editor

Town Engineer Richard B. Henry III presents sewer remediation plans to more than 100 West Seneca residents on Monday during a public hearing at the West Seneca Senior Center. Henry recommends that the Town Board bond $30 million to begin repairing sewer districts 5, 13 and 20. Photo by Scott SchildPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Town Engineer Richard B. Henry III presents sewer remediation plans to more than 100 West Seneca residents on Monday during a public hearing at the West Seneca Senior Center. Henry recommends that the Town Board bond $30 million to begin repairing sewer districts 5, 13 and 20. Photo by Scott SchildPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com

Residents had their opportunity to speak on a pair of significant issues Monday night relating to sewers and home inspections.

Prior to its regular meeting, the West Seneca Town Board held a public hearing to discuss improving sewer districts 5, 13 and 20.

Approximately 80 percent of all West Seneca residents account for these three districts, according to Town Engineer Richard B. Henry III. He led Monday’s presentation, which was nearly identical to two other presentations offered in the past year.

With about 100 people in attendance, there was more public interest this time around.

West Seneca officials are proposing to bond $30 million for a sewer remediation project to fix the town’s three areas of concern. Henry said that taxes would increase for all residents. Those in the affected districts, said to be the majority of residents, would pay about $140 per year. All others would see an annual increase of about $40.

The rates are based on the “average homeowner,” which Henry said is a house with an assessed value of $62,000. However, several residents argued that a typical home in West Seneca is valued at more than $100,000. They also questioned if town officials are seeking grants or other outside resources to pay for the project before “punishing” taxpayers.

Henry said he’s applied for the 2013 Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund. Additionally, Town Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said the town has had discussions with state Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on where to find additional funding for such a project.

“The project that I recommended, regardless of funding, is a $30 million project,” said Henry. “There are some things we [currently] do in the budget that we would no longer have to do because of this [remediation] program, which saves money right out of the gate.”

He estimated that cost to be approximately $8 million.

“We are fighting very hard to reduce the burden as low as we possibly can,” the engineer added. “It’s not going to be free, but we can [try to] reduce it.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has had the town under a consent order for its overtaxed sewer system since 2004, with an amendment in 2008. The order includes the removal of all sanitary sewer overflows into Cazenovia Creek.

The town’s total annual overflow into the creek is estimated at 356.9 million gallons per day.

“I don’t know about all of you, but that’s a big number to me. That’s the number we’re trying to eliminate,” said Henry.

Generally, the proposed remediation work would include the elimination of sanitary sewer overflows; the removal of the non-permitted Leydecker pumping station; and the installation of sliplining in sewer mains. These measures would collectively reduce the town’s inflow and infiltration problem.

However, the largest contributing factor to the “I&I” problem, as Henry calls it, are the private laterals. Homeowners are responsible for these connections, which run from a house to the town’s main. The town modified a local law in November that required homeowners — those looking to sell or transfer title — to replace the sewer laterals on all homes built before 1980.

That modified portion of the law has since been repealed and deleted, and it also was in relation to the second public hearing during the Town Board’s regular meeting. The hearing was for the removal of the local law pertaining to the requirement of a certificate of occupancy. It later passed 2-1, with Councilman Eugene P. Hart casting the lone “no” vote.

Hart felt it is a worthwhile service to provide and agreed that it should be offered for free. At its last meeting, the board approved the councilman’s proposal to reduce the fee for the certificate of occupancy from $100 to $0.

Resident Ken Hansen also lobbied to keep the service, using his late daughter, Amanda Hansen, as an example. She succumbed to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which leaked from a faulty boiler, in 2009 at a friend’s house. A CO detector was not installed at that time.

“Why are we giving up something that’s free and would protect home buyers? ... this is not something we can let go — not letting another child pass away from CO,” said Hansen.

His sentiments and efforts with establishing Amanda’s Law were commended by the board as well as several residents; however, those vehemently opposed to the law — some calling it “governmental intrusion” — won.

The next Town Board meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, April 16, at Town Hall, 1250 Union Road.

email: kmcdowell@beenews.com

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