Residents can now pay water bills online
By Terry Duffy
Pressing work at the Town of Lewiston water treatment plant on Pletcher Road was a newsmaker at the Lewiston Town Board session on Monday.
Jeff Ritter, administrator for the Town of Lewiston Water Pollution Control Center, advised board members on the need for replacement of an underground valve with an electric actuator. The unit is commonly used to divert water overflows to the overflow basin at the WPCC.
“The treatment plant lost one of its key operational components last month, in the way of an underground valve that has an electronic motor on top of it,” Ritter said. “This 20-year-old valve is used to divert water to our overflow basins in times of elevated flows coming into the plant.”
Ritter said he had hoped to replace the valve at another time but, with continuing high precipitation hitting the River Region, it became a more urgent matter.
“When the existing valve failed during routine flushing, I thought we could replace it when we got around to it,” Ritter said, adding he was planning to combine the valve’s replacement with other pending work at the WPCC. “I planned to incorporate its purchase into the main panel slated after our current sludge dewatering machine is installed.”
Then the rains came.
“When we got the rain, we had to deal with over an inch of precipitation and realized that our manual valve was (not working),” Ritter said. “So, we had to divert a lot of water to our parking lot. We had to call the DEC and tell them we couldn’t divert the water because we didn’t have this valve.”
After searching for an alternative replacement with no success – not to mention the repair work that involved crews digging 15 feet into the ground just to access the unit – Ritter said he felt his best option was to just pursue a replacement of the original valve.
“We really didn’t want to customize any 16-inch pipe, so we decided that we would like to replace in-kind,” he said. “In doing so, we found out that there’s just a ‘sole source’ for this valve.”
Ritter said the price tag was $32,175 to replace the unit – called a DeZurik valve and actuator. He put in a request to the board to purchase from Tek Sales Inc. of Rochester. Funds for the purchase would be taken from WPCC’s H-32 account.
Board action required special authorization to purchase the unit directly from Tek Sales versus the town pursuing the usual bid procedure of obtaining three separate bids. After learning Tek Sales was sole provider of the DeZurik unit in New York state (and the northeast), the board gave its approval.
Councilman John Jacoby asked Ritter whether choosing an alternative would have meant additional work and costs for the town.
“We may have to customize 16-inch pipe; we don’t even know if the blot patterns are going to be the same. This comes as a one-piece (unit) … it’s pretty big,” Ritter said, adding he felt the original unit was the town’s best option.
Soon after, the board OK’d the purchase order.
In a related area, Engineer Bob Lannon provided an update on potential work associated with the remediation of the outfall building serving the WPCC, located on a town-owned parcel on Lower River Road.
“We did receive the report from Sienna,” Lannon said. He noted the report focused on two components: one being asbestos-containing material found on the roof, the other being tar and lead contamination. “There are two layers of asphalt shingles on it, both of which came back with asbestos-containing materials, along with some of the tar that was used to patch up one of the penetrations, and there was led on some of the window basins. It is kind of what we expected given the age of the building.”
Lannon said its construction was not considered traditional, noting gypsum decking found on the roof and the potential need for a complete teardown – shingles, asbestos abatement, gypsum removal, etc. – in order to do the job correctly with metal decking, plywood replacements and new shingles.
Done completely, with a new roof, new windows, etc., Lannon said the town could be looking at $400,000-$500,000 to do the work on the building, which he described as being in poor condition.
“We’re still waiting back on some of the abatement costs with the asbestos, but it’s significant,” he said. “It’s going to be an expensive undertaking, for sure.”
In response, Jacoby jokingly asked, “How much do blue tarps cost?”
Councilman Bill Geiben asked if the outfall building was worth saving or if it should be demoed. In response, Lannon said the main concern in either option would involve the asbestos abatement, which in any case would be expensive.
“Whatever project we do, that (asbestos abatement) would be involved,” he said.
“Unfortunately, something needs to be done one way or the other. You just can’t leave that building in that condition,” Supervisor Steve Broderick said. He explained that, in either case, the guts of the building would need to remain to handle sewer outfall for the WPCC.
The matter was left with the town still pursuing cost prices before deciding on its options.
On a related note, Lannon said the expanded testing of the lagoon areas on the proposed Town of Lewiston Riverside Park was complete, but still under review. More information is expected at a future board session.
In other news:
•The board lent its approval on a lease agreement between Mount St. Mary’s Hospital and T-Mobile communications for an antenna/tower on the MSM property.
•The board approved an extension, from October to July 1, 2020, to the developers of the French Landing subdivision for completion of sidewalks fronting residences in the development.
•Broderick closed by announcing Town of Lewiston water customers are now able to pay their bills online.
As many in the town are fully aware, the issue of residents not receiving a water bill on time in order to pay it has become a contentious matter. Many complaints of non-delivered residential water bills have been heard at board meetings, with blame directed solely on the U.S. Postal Service. The topic has become a common complaint not only for Lewiston water users, but from those in many other communities in northern Niagara County, as well.
In response, Broderick said Lewiston residents now have the ability to pay their water bill online via the town’s website, www.townoflewiston.us.
“You can pay your water bill online now. You go to our website; it’s under ‘Gov Pay.’ It is a simple pay it. I think there’s a convenience fee,” he said.
Broderick noted the town is currently working on improving its water billing/pay procedure.
“What we’re working on is a more elaborate (setup) where you can actually check on your water bill online,” he said. “(At present), this is simply you get your water bill, you can go online and pay it.”
Broderick said he continues to talk with the U.S. Postal Service on how the delivery of town water bills could be improved.