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SILVER CREEK –Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan urged members of the new Northern Chautauqua County Water District to get moving on a water service project.

During the first regular meeting of the newly formed district, held in the cafeteria of Silver Creek High School, members of towns in the northern end of the county heard a lengthy report from two engineers – Rick Henry and Eric Weis of Clark, Patterson and Lee, who presented several options for water service, including the creation of a regional system to be run by an agency; the City of Dunkirk or other water suppliers selling water to towns and villages through intermunicipal agreements; and the Erie County Water Authority selling water to rural areas, in addition to Silver Creek.

The mission of the newly formed group is to find ways to provide water to promote economic development as well as cost-effective solutions to provide quality water to areas where residents use wells. The goals were initiated in a 2008 study of the condition of area water systems and the needs of residents who are not served by a municipal system.

Town of Pomfret Supervisor Don Steger, who was elected chairman of the water district group, also urged members to make a decision on water service – one that boils down to a choice between having an agency assume the assets and liabilities of a regional district or buying water as individual districts or municipalities.

“The goal of this agency is to supply economically feasible water to the region,” said Steger, who pointed to the advantage of having Lake Erie nearby. “Other areas are not going to have that big fresh water supply out their back door.”

Paul Snyder, an engineer with the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, said he has been looking at each municipality’s water system and believes a regional system is the best alternative. He also pointed out that both Brocton and Fredonia will need to make major improvements to their water treatment plants to continue to supply water.

The City of Dunkirk, which has the largest capacity of any water producer in the northern part if the county, is making many upgrades to its system. One alternative envisions the Dunkirk plant as the main supplier – a proposal that resulted in a $1 million grant last December for a continued study into a regional water system.

“I signed the grant application and received the funds but we are supposed to make a decision soon,” Horrigan said, . He noted the grant is conditioned on a decision on the supply and transmission system by March.“We really have to come to a consensus and we have to do it sooner rather than later.”

Steger scheduled the next meeting on May 8 with a location to be determined.

Meanwhile, Brocton is currently under order to make improvements to its system.

“If this (project) takes five years,” said Brocton Mayor Dave Hazelton, “is the Health Department going to wait?”

Horrigan said members should select a plan and be aware that future changes may be necessary. He also pledged county support for a regional program, noting the county assisted the group with the early grant application and made a commitment to help the region seek a long-term funding package.

Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo said the village is very interested in the regional plan as leverage for negotiations with the Erie County Water Authority. He said Silver Creek and the Town of Hanover currently have contracts with the authority until 2019.

Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce announced this week that he would closely study intermunicipal sales as a solution instead of the regional water agency. Dolce also said he has had talks with officials of other communities on that option.