Medina agrees to supply new Shelby water districts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Mayor says town now needs to resolve water cost dispute

SHELBY – A standoff in recent months over the water source for two new water districts in the town of Shelby has been resolved. The Village Board voted unanimously to have Medina provide the water.

The board, in particular Mayor Andrew Meier, had been reluctant to supply the new districts until the Town Board agreed to pay its share of an “ad valorum” charge to the Niagara County Water District. For Shelby, the charge would be nearly $25,000 a year for all of the water districts.

The Niagara County Water District billed the village $134,437 this year for the fee. The village hired Bonadio & Co. to determine a fair distribution of the charge and the firm calculated $24,171 for Shelby water users, $6,748 for Ridgeway water users and the village, $103,528.

Shelby doesn’t believe it needs to pay towards the fee, saying the village already hits the town with higher water rates than villagers pay. Ridgeway town officials have ignored the issue, except for an email from Town Supervisor Brian Napoli, who last Oct. 3 said the village “gouges” the towns for water.

“This appears to be another desperate attempt to use the Towns as funding sources for the Village’s overspending, poor financial management and inept budgeting,” Napoli wrote to Meier, in a message that was copied to Ridgeway and Shelby officials. “We have no intention of allowing the Village to dictate what goes into our budget. How do we proceed? By ignoring it.”

Shelby officials are willing to have a “good faith” discussion about the issue, attorney Karl Essler wrote to village officials on Sept. 16. Essler in his letter said the village needed to move forward on the water supply agreement so Shelby could advance the two water districts.

He said residents in the two districts have wells that are “severely poor quality” and pose a health threat to residents.

Essler said the village shouldn’t use the water supply issue as leverage in negotiating the Niagara County WD charge, which Essler said the village already applies to the town with higher water rates.

Village Attorney Matthew Brooks, in a Sept. 19 letter to Essler and Shelby officials, said the village is obligated to demand the ad valorum charge after the review by the auditing firm, which spelled out the responsibilities for the two towns for the charge.

Brooks, in his letter to Essler and Shelby, urged the town to stop a pattern of “unresponsiveness” and “brinkmanship.” Brooks said legal action may be needed to resolve the issue if the Town Board can not negotiate in good faith. Brooks said he wants the issue resolved by the end of the year.

Meier said he is hopeful the two towns will soon pay their share of the charge, which currently is borne solely on village water users. The Village Board in May voted to raise water rates for village residents. Meier said the average residential town water users gets a better deal than village water users.

“We’re looking for a resolution to this issue,” Meier said Tuesday evening. “The towns need to follow through with their end of the bargain.”