Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa and village trustees used the inaugural “State of the Village” address Monday to make their strongest public case yet for a county takeover of the village’s water system.
“It is time to focus our resources on what is above ground, not underground,” Kulpa said during the event in the Village Meeting House.
The hourlong address was part of a broader effort to better communicate with residents. The village has also launched a Facebook page and discussed upgrading its website to provide more current and useful information.
Topics covered by Kulpa in his address ranged from a discussion of water consolidation and the broader community growth to efforts under way to redesign Main Street and bring the historic Water Mill back to life.
“We have a lot of irons in the fire, a lot of balls in the air, and it’s our sense that at the end of the year we should collect our thoughts and tell everyone where we stand,” Kulpa said to an audience of about 40 residents.
Kulpa and Trustee Chris Duquin said Monday that the existing, “artificially suppressed” water rate of $4.87 per 1,000 gallons for village residents is “unsustainable.”
The village water rate should be $5.37 just to cover the water fund deficit and repay the general fund loan for the water program over the next five years, they said.
And five years from now, if the village does not merge with the county, the village’s water rate would need to grow to $5.81 to cover the capital improvement costs needed to upgrade the village’s aging pipes and outdated meters, they said.
“It’s time to get out of the water business,” Kulpa said. “It’s a game that we can’t play and win.”
The Erie County Water Authority rate is $2.96. When adding back in a figurative village surcharge over 20 years for the cost of upgrading water lines and meters, as well as some salary costs covered by the water fund, residents would effectively pay a consolidated water rate of $5.06, he said.
Village leaders continue to struggle with the fact that the village currently bills a minimum usage fee based on 4,000 gallons used, compared with 9,000 gallons for the county.
Kulpa’s speech also reviewed:
• The ongoing progress with the “Picture Main Street” initiative to broadly improve the beauty, village character, pedestrian friendliness and mixed-use development of Williamsville’s main commercial corridor.
• The desire to create a pocket park between Village Hall and the Williamsville Library, create a more inviting entranceway to Glen Park, and develop nicer gateways into Williamsville on the eastern and western ends of Main Street.
• Continuing efforts to transform the Mill and Spring Street corridor into a village square and working with Iskalo Development to redevelop the historic Williamsville Water Mill. Roofing and paint work that began last season will continue next season. Redeveloping and redesigning Spring Street is a major village priority.
During the question-and-answer period with the board, trustees fielded questions regarding cut-through traffic and safety on residential streets, Iskalo Development’s specific mill plans, storefront improvements and further questions regarding water consolidation.