MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Legislature held a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed $16.9 million extension of the South and Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer Districts in North Harmony, which would involve providing sewer service to 240 parcels of property that currently rely on septic systems.
Following the hearing, the legislature approved the expansion proposal, on the condition that the final cost to individual property owners wouldn’t exceed $1000/year to help pay off any bonding needed to develop the project.
During the hearing, officials with the engineering firm of O’Brien & Gere were on hand to provide details of the project and answer questions from public, which included 15 different individuals speaking during the hearing, including several residents as well as those who only live in the area on a seasonal basis.
Officials say the extension will help to reduce the amount of phosphate that enter the lake because currently, most septic systems in the service area are not able to eliminate phosphates. Phosphates contribute to the growth of algae and other vegetation that can impact the health of the lake, which was evident this past summer with conditions being among the worst ever seen, even for long-time residents.
“My home is in Pittsburgh but I’ve been a visitor for 62 years. This is the 100th year that six generations of my family have been coming here. We kind of like it, for one reason because of the lake,” said Jake Kuntz. “This is one of the things that we need to do. I’m not thrilled about paying another $1,000 a year to come to Watson Rd., but I will, as will my daughters. I urge you, move forward, show leadership, and please do your part.”
Another who spoke was former New York Assemblyman and area resident Rolland Kidder, who also urged the legislature to support the extension.
“Of the approximately $60 million in local property taxes collected by this county, about $27 million come from five townships [that surround Chautauqua Lake] and I’d estimate that about half of that can be directly attributed directly to the lake,” Kidder said. “So this gem, not directly represented by anybody and nestled in the center of Chautauqua County, is producing about $13 million a year for your budget. Your vote tonight will have a direct impact on its health and ability to continue contributing to the property tax levy.”
All but one person spoke in favor of the project.
Officials said that the no-interest bonding for the project would take about 30 years to pay off. But they also said the final cost to individual property owners in the service area will depend on how much grant funding the project can receive to help offset any borrowing that may be necessary.
Funding for the project will be sought in early 2018 and the project will not move forward until officials have a spending plan in place to ensure the cost won’t exceed $1000/year for the residents who would benefit from the sewer system.
According to the resolution, the extension is subject to permissive referendum pursuant to county law and the legislature clerk will publish a public notice on the referendum within the next ten days.