Property owners approve CUD measure

Last Tuesday, Chautauquans overwhelmingly approved a proposal by the Chautauqua Utility District (CUD) authorizing a $408,000 expenditure over the next year for engineering design work on equipment replacement and upgrades needed to comply with federal clean water mandates.

The vote was 77-1 in favor of the authorization. Those eligible to vote were Institution property owners of record. Six percent of eligible voters exercised their franchise.

Tom Cherry, CUD supervisor, has been visible on the grounds throughout the season trying to raise awareness and understanding of the significant issues Chautauquans will face in the next few years relating to the wastewater treatment plant.

“I’m pleased about the support from property owners for our authorization,” Cherry said. “And we’ll continue, with their support, to push for the best outcome for the property owners and the health of Chautauqua Lake.”

“While the [voter] turnout was below recent levels,” he continued, “the ratio of positive to negative votes was quite gratifying.”

Tuesday’s vote will not raise taxes for Chautauquans. However, it may bring about eventual significant sewer plant upgrades, for which the estimated cost is $6 million. That would raise taxes by an estimated $352 per year for 30 years on a home assessed at $400,000. The CUD will seek authorization to raise and spend the $6 million next year at this time.

Meanwhile, Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards is supporting a plan to extend a unified sanitary sewer system around the entire lake by piping all liquid sewage to the county-owned sewer plant in Celoron. There are no reliable cost estimates for this project yet, Cherry said.

There is also some discussion of a third option, which would direct Chautauqua’s effluent through Mayville to the underutilized plant in Westfield.

“We’ll assess what the county options are going forward, hopefully get our many questions answered about the various proposals and see what makes the most sense,” Cherry said.

The CUD operates on a state charter, which grants it substantial independence from the county. But Cherry and Doug Conroe, a noted advocate for Chautauqua Lake health and Institution director of operations, agree that the best public policy option is to sewer the lake.

“We need to get the phosphates and ammonia nitrates out of the lake, and the federal rules  mandate just that,” Conroe said. Like Cherry, he awaits answers about the county’s plans.

Cherry said he and his CUD commissioners — all of whom are Chautauqua property owners — will keep their options open.

“We want to proceed judiciously,” he said. “These issues we face are big issues.”