DANSVILLE — The Dansville Genesee Community College auditorium was packed Tuesday night with concerned village residents who do not like the idea of an increase in their water and sewer bills.
The presentations were put together by Department of Public Works Superintendent Scott Tracy, Mayor Peter Vogt, and MRB Group Engineer Bill Davis.
The public information meeting about the Wastewater Treatment Plant project and the costs of the water and sewer rates increasing were the main topics of discussion.
Mayor Vogt began the meeting giving the audience a little background information about why the meeting took place and what to expect moving forward.
“There has been a lot of talk about water and sewer rates going up,” he said. “Everyone understands how we have to work on the budget. Each fund is a separate entity and needs to be sufficient. You can borrow from funds but you need to pay it all back. We can’t take taxpayer money for long-term projects. The water and sewer needs to be able to provide for itself. We are in the position where the funds can not pay for themselves.”
Davis gave everyone a visual contrast between the old plant and the restored one.
“There was a lot of debate on the project and we all knew it would be a major one,” he said. “I will touch on some things that started it. There were many odor complaints; failing equipment, which led to a lot of expense; limited pumping since a lot of this was very outdated. This equipment hadnt been changed since the 60s or 70s; extensive amounts of sludge and the hauling cost $200,000 to get rid of.”
Davis added that the disinfection needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.
“The old plant was not a pleasant sight,” he said. “During design we had to push scheduling since everything was falling apart so fast. The chlorine tank was no longer needed and was cracked and leaking. The pumps were in need if there was an emergency. There was not suppose to be grass growing in the compost.”
Davis went on to mention the milestones achieved since the beginning of the project in 2012.
“The DEC (department of environmental conservation) did an evaluation of the plant in 2009 and gave us five or six pages worth of things that were not up to code,” he said. “MRB Group did a report for the village in 2010.
The project started out costing $19 million and we have gotten it down to $13 million. We reduced the scope of the project and took out long-term benefits like digestive and compost. Village got Hardship grant which came at zero percent interest. The principal forgiveness of $2 million will be given back once the project is complete.”
The compost was put back into the project, because it will pay for itself.
“The produce from the sludge can be purchased by residents and used for gardening and flower beds. I encourage residents to fill up their buckets with the sludge and use it,” Davis said. “It is very beneficial to us. The money for the compost grant came sooner than we thought. We will get a big portion this year and next year. The status of the plant today is mostly complete.”
Davis went on to mention all the new things done to the plant, which the DEC has approved of. Now the plant can be viewed by anyone interested in a tour. You need to contact Tracy and he said he would be more than happy to show you around.
Tracy began his presentation mentioning the water and sewer rates.
“We hired a fella in 2012 to look at it. There is a rapid decline in the deficit, which needs to be dealt with as soon as possible,” he said.
It goes like this for the sewer in 2012; the village asked for a base rate of $55.65, but recommended to raise it to $68.97, but this was too high so there was a compromise of $65 even. Now the village board knew this was not enough and need to deal with the consequences this year.
The sewer budget is set at 1.26 million for 2016. That means the sewer rate may be raised from $2.80 per 1,000 gallons to $3 per 1,000 gallons.
“Without a grant we were looking at a 38 year loan with $20 million interest,” Tracy said. “With the grant we are looking at a 30 year loan with a principal of $13 million. That means everyone in would have to pay $234 for the cost of the new plant.”
As for the water, everyone uses about 10,000 gallons a day. This would mean everyone would have to pay $248 in the cost of their user bill.
Tracy gave a long list of new equipment purchased for the plant and its various uses.
Mayor Vogt explained everything needs to go through a process and be bidded on.
“Everything goes through the board and nothing is hidden. We have to pay bills like everyone else and this is a very tight budget this year,” he said. “I know it hurts. It hurts me and the rest of the board too. We need to pay the same bills you do.”
The meeting was opened up for public comments and many of the residents felt like an increase to $3 per 1,000 gallons is outrageous. Also many senior citizens felt they would not be able to afford it and be pushed out on the street. Some even felt like the village board should of handled the money situation better and not spent so much on other things. One resident pointed out that as a taxpayer who pays an average of $136 a month would now have to pay over $50 more in water and sewer. Mayor Vogt confirmed this with the resident. Senior citizens said that if the water or sewer bill is not paid you have 24 hours to pay it or you have to be evicted. They claim this is not fair and want to know where they are suppose to go. One resident even told the mayor that the village can not afford this and it feels like it is being forced on them. Residents were all very angry and even demanded an election take place to vote on what happens in the village.
“The laws have not been changed since the 1970s,” Mayor Vogt said. “A month ago we asked for help in changing them and only one person was interested. There are 5,000 people in the village and no one volunteers to help us out. That tells you the attitude of the people. As a promise when I took office I said that I would not kick anything down the road. I said I would fix the problems and we have one right here.”
If you would like to have a say on whether this increase happens or not there will be a public hearing on July 28 at 6 p.m. in the Dansville GCC Auditorium. If you would like to speak you must sign in before you walk in.