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With millions of dollars of state-mandated improvements under way and more on the horizon, the Town of Tonawanda has hired a new director of its Water Resources Department.

The Town Board on Monday appointed lifelong town resident Michael E. Kessler to the $98,000 post effective March 20.

Kessler, 44, currently serves as director of infrastructure operations for the Niagara Falls Water Board and previously worked for 18 years at the town’s Goodyear Dunlop Tires manufacturing plant.

Councilman Joe Emminger, chairman of the Town Board’s Water Resources Committee, said he liked the experience that Kessler brings “coming from a municipality the size of Niagara Falls and the fact that he has been involved in a lot of things that a director of water resources already does” such as budgeting.

Kessler agreed that his experience in Niagara Falls will help him in his new role.

“It’s a very similar set up,” Kessler said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work here. It’s a very well run municipality. The opportunity seems like a good fit for myself as well as the town.”

The 1987 Kenmore East graduate takes over for Ken Maving, who retired in November but was rehired effective Dec. 2 as a temporary part-time laborer in the department to train his successor.

“You don’t replace someone like Ken Maving, but he’ll be able to step in and – with the help of our division heads – keep the town water and sewer service running well,” Emminger said.

And Kessler takes over as the town arrives at the halfway point of a $30 million project involving massive digs and soil excavation.

The town has just completed phase two of the four-phase Parker-Fries sewer reconstruction project, which is only the first part of an anticipated decades-long, town-wide sewer system update.

Replacement of the town’s 60-year-old sanitary sewer lines was necessitated by sewage overflowing into storm sewers and nearby waterways, which caused the town to get into trouble with state and federal environmental regulatory agencies.

The board on Monday approved a resolution calling for bids on the $16 million third phase of the project. The board also voted unanimously in favor of water and sewer rate increases.

Under the new fee schedule, quarterly water rates– for the first 10,000 gallons – will go from the current $36 to $37 in 2014 and to $38 in 2015. Sewer rates, which are based upon water consumption and sewage flow, would go from the current $2.56 to $2.72 in 2014 and to $2.94 in 2015.

The town’s water capital improvement fee also is rising. The quarterly rate will go from the current $6.15 to $6.30 next year and to $6.60 the year after. Implemented in 2008, the fee can be used only to pay for capital improvements such as water line work.

“We are more active than any other municipality in Western New York so he’s going to be very busy,” Emminger said of Kessler. “He’s stepping into the fire here.”

Also at Monday’s meeting:

•The board honored retiring Comptroller Edward D. Mongold, the first and only person to ever hold that position. Mongold began his career in 1982 with the town, which previously only had a bookkeeper.

• The board passed a law extending a property tax exemption to the parents of a member of the Armed Forces who died in the line of duty while serving during a period of war. The town has one application for the Alternative Veterans’ Exemption pending, officials said.

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com