Orleans seeks study on county-wide water district

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 July 2017 at 3:18 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers – The 1-million-gallon water tank on Route 98 is pictured through a metal fence at the site north of the village in the Town of Gaines. A firm about two years advised the village to spend nearly $1 million to bolster the tank with a series of improvements.

ALBION – Orleans County will seek state funding to study a county-wide water district, which could be created to maintain and operate some of the water infrastructure in Orleans.

The study has the support of the Albion Village Board and several of the town boards.

Albion’s Department of Public Works handles the maintenance and operation of the village system. The village sells water to the towns of Carlton, Gaines, Albion and Barre.

Holley and Lyndonville also have water systems, the Niagara County Water District serves Medina, and the Monroe County Water Authority is a supplier for Kendall, Murray and Clarendon.

The highway superintendents for the towns also function in a part-time role as water superintendents, and highway employees also work on the water systems.

Several highway superintendents are expected to retire soon, and the water plants, storage tanks, water towers and other infrastructure are all getting older.

Some local municipal leaders think a county-wide water district could be the best answer for qualified personnel overseeing the water systems, and could also draw more grants and resources for costly capital projects.

“It’s definitely worth looking in to,” said Dean London, mayor of Albion.

The village is a primary water supplier in the county. But the MCWA has been pushing westward from Monroe, locking Kendall, for example, into a 40-year agreement.

A countywide water district could help the Village of Albion keep the local towns as customers. The district could also have an overseeing board of directors with representatives from the village, towns and county.

“The water plant is a resource we have,” London said. “If we had county-wide participation, it could set ourselves in a good direction.”

London said the plant at Wilson Road in Carlton is under capacity and could produce more water, serving more water districts and serving as an economic development tool in the county.

“Monroe County (Water Authority) is trying to make inroads from the east,” London said. “We need to protect what we have.”

Orleans County is taking the lead on the application to the state for the study. The county has received letters of support from the municipal boards from the villages of Albion, Holley and Lyndonville, as well as the Town Boards from Barre, Clarendon, Gaines and Ridgeway.

If the project moves forward, the municipalities are expected to continue to keep their own infrastructure, with the county-wide water district perhaps having its own superintendent, staff and possibly billing clerks.

The study would flesh out details and different scenarios.

The study and the formation of the countywide water district could drive investment to the Albion water plant, boosting its capacity and increasing its efficiency, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county chief administrative officer.

Nesbitt said the timing for the study is ideal with the imminent retirement of some of the local highway superintendents. The state also has boosted resources for water infrastructure, and the study and a possible county-wide district could increase the chances for securing some of those funds locally, he said.

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