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Town of Lewiston moves ahead on water line project

Sat, Aug 19th 2017 07:00 am
Town Board approves single water district, project cost financing & SEQR
By Terry Duffy
Following months of planning and discussion, the Town of Lewiston moved on establishing a single town water district at its Monday meeting. It also set the stage for a $10.2 million water line improvement covering numerous areas of Lewiston.
The water district measure, which moves Lewiston's former setup of nine water districts into one single entity, was viewed as necessary for the town to begin plans for the upcoming waterline replacements.
As discussed in earlier Sentinel reports, Seaman, Norris and Benedict, Attorneys at Law attorney Brian Seaman - who has been facilitating this project on behalf of the town - said the $10.2 million project as proposed would see its funding for year one derived from town residents by three avenues. These include the residential cost of water, real property tax and by a $55 special tax on a resident's bill to cover debt service costs. The proposed total for the first year would average out to $285 annually on a typical resident's bill ($174 for the cost of water; $56 in real property tax; and $55 proposed debt service).
The water line improvements, which are expected to address problems of tuberculation affecting aged cast iron water lines throughout the town, would cover a number of residential areas in Lewiston, both above and below the hill, according to Town Engineer Robert Lannon of GHD Consulting Services.
"The symptoms (tuberculation) through these nine areas are very common," Lannon said last month in remarks to the Town Board.
As discussions with attorney Seaman moved toward approval Monday, Councilman Rob Morreale had some questions with regard to how many areas of the town the water improvement plan would actually cover.
"Since that development proposal on Bronson (plans for a 205-unit planned unit development covering 80.2 acres in the Upper Mountain Road/Bronson Drive area; see story at www.wnypapers.com), people have been coming out of the woodwork for water pressure (questions). Everywhere I go I get someone coming up to me," Morreale said. "There's been a few areas - Myers Hill, Lower Mountain Road, The Circle, Bronson, Bridgeman. ... What I don't want is next year to be up here and telling me, 'Well, we have another 3 miles of water line that has to be corrected.' "
Morreale suggested the town might consider redoing an earlier 2000s survey to determine Lewiston's overall current replacement needs.
Seaman said, "We're not redoing the entire town water system in this project. There are going to be additional water line projects ... water mains that have to be replaced in the future."
He noted the latest plan sets the stage for the future.
Water Department spokesman Mike Townsend responded that a number of water line areas, indeed, have been corrected earlier, noting work in the 1990s done on Mountain View Drive, Woodland Drive, Forrest Road and Annover Road.
"Then there was a slew of roads in 2003," Townsend said.
"There's been significant improvement in the water lines that have been replaced," Lannon said. "As significant and as expansive as this current project that's being contemplated is, it's not going to eliminate the need to make consistent attention to your infrastructure for now onward."
"We're not going to correct every problem with this project," Supervisor Steve Broderick said. "(But) the town's going to be way better off with this project."
Noting the current situation of low and favorable bond rates, Councilman Bill Geiben advised, "At the 11th hour of discussion (on this), I think we should go forward."
He suggested the time to act is now.
The Town Board went on to approve, by a 4-1 vote, the establishment of a single water district. It also authorized three preliminary measures - the Town of Lewiston as lead agency; the approval of State Environmental Quality Review Assessment forms and issuance of a negative declaration; and the aforementioned proposed funding measure.
Morreale cast the lone "no" vote.
Asked following the meeting why he opted to vote as he did, Morreale responded, "Because we didn't bid out the engineering on it. Remember I brought up the engineering (and legal) do a (request for proposal)? They never did."
Morreale was referring to questions he had earlier in the process as the town was deciding who would handle the engineering and legal work for the water improvement project. Those jobs went to Lannon and Seaman, despite Morreale's calls for an RFP to seek outside help.
In other news from Monday's session:
•With fall budget discussions approaching, the town received a favorable review Monday on its overall financial structure from municipal CPAs Drescher & Malecki LLP of Buffalo.
Drescher & Malecki reps Matt Montalbo and Carol Wittner visited to present the results of the town's external audit for year-end Dec. 31, 2016.
"No significant difficulties encountered during the audit," Montalbo said, as he referred to Wittner, who went on to detail various aspects of the town's major funds. These included its general fund; town outside village; highway; water and sewer funds.
Throughout the report, the auditors praised the town for having improvements in all categories; better appropriations of fund balances; better recordkeeping; better internal assignment of tasks; and improved bank reconciliations.
"Compared to last year, the town was better able to control costs, while experiencing not as much of a decrease in revenues," Wittner said. "This resulted in an overall increase in fund balance."
He pointed to a $130,000 increase in the general fund, for example.
Overall, the auditors said 2016 was a good, clean year with regard to the town's internal controls. They credited Financial Officer/Budget Director Martha Blazick with cleaning up many of the earlier problem areas.
"From an objective standpoint, there are certainly improvements that are tangible," Wittner said, indicating the town could be looking at more favorable ratings in the future from Moody's.
Once the Drescher & Malecki report is finalized by the town, look for it to be posted on the town's website, www.townoflewiston.us, under the Finance Department listing.
•Geiben reported the town remains in what he called a "dilemma" with regard to video procurement RFP procedures of equipment for its planned broadcasts of Town Board meetings.
"We have differences of opinion, how we go about purchasing this," Geiben said.
He told the board the matter boils down to adhering to state bidding procedures and acceptance, and working with the various vendors involved.
"This is something we need to move forward on," Geiben said. "Our attorney is very strong on the way he believes it needs to be done for the New York State Procurement Policy. ... We have done it differently in the past, and we are in a dilemma."
Discussions ended with the broadcast matter again being referred to attorneys for the town for review.
Currently, the Lewiston Taxpayers and Action Alliance has taken it upon itself to handle videotaping and edited broadcasting of the meetings. This follows an earlier, heated exchange with Broderick and alliance member Paulette Glasgow over the issue.
Sessions may be viewed in edited form on the alliance website, www.taxpayersalliance.wixsite.com/lewiston-ny.
•Wrapping up, the Town Board approved a new $50-per-day contract with the Town of Wilson to handle its current dog control, veterinary and boarding needs. At the same time, it was announced the town would begin exploring the building of a new, three-kennel shelter, possibly to be built behind Town Hall in the future.
More on this to come as news develops.

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