CPOA meeting is last chance for sewer plant discussion before Tuesday’s vote

There are several items on the agenda for the Chautauqua Property Owners Association annual meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Hall of Philosophy.

But Chautauqua’s sewer plant is arguably the most pressing item on the list, what with the upcoming vote on Aug. 12, which will determine whether or not the Chautauqua Utility District can move forward with plans to implement a new wastewater treatment system.

Saturday’s meeting will be the last time for many community members to receive information and answers about the sewer system plans before the vote Tuesday. Tom Cherry, CUD supervisor, said that he plans to engage the property owners in a Q-and-A forum, similar to previous meetings that addressed the sewer plant. Although it was previously reported that Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan would be in attendance to answer questions about the sewer plant, Cherry said he has since had to cancel his visit. Instead, Cherry will be fielding community questions.

“I think people are getting tired of me just standing up there and talking about it,” he said. “I know I’m getting tired of saying it. I want people to ask questions about the things they want to know.”

At July’s CPOA meeting, CUD’s sewage engineering design had not yet been approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation to present to the public. Since July’s meeting, the DEC has been reviewing the engineering design to make sure it conforms with the 10 State Standards, a set of regulations that guide the design process and ensure that the system meets DEC rules. CUD is expecting its design to be deemed “approvable” by the DEC, although Cherry said there’s always a chance the design could be rejected, bringing CUD back to square one.

“There is always a possibility to be denied,” Cherry said. “But we’ll know by the [CPOA] meeting, and we’ll report then if it’s approvable.”

New York State regulations mandate that the Chautauqua sewer plant be updated by 2018. The sewer renovation project is currently estimated to be a $7.4 million undertaking, although Cherry said those numbers are not finalized. This would mean a tax increase for property owners: roughly an extra $60 in taxes for each $100,000 in a property value. This increase would last for 30 years, the lifetime of bonds purchased to fund the project.

Cherry said that the wastewater treatment plant overhaul is expected to be a two-year project at minimum. While there would be no real repercussions — yet — if the vote doesn’t pass this summer, Cherry said it’s wise to get a jump start on the renovation. It is inefficient to simply have to redo the voting process next summer, he said.

Cherry also said that while property owners do have a vote now, the Institution ultimately doesn’t have  a choice in renovating the treatment plant. If the sewer system isn’t updated by 2018, the Institution will face heavy state fines.

“If the vote doesn’t pass, we’ll have to do this all again next year,” Cherry said. “But everything always takes longer than you think it will, which is why I’m trying to get this done now.”

Cherry thinks it is wise not to procrastinate on the issue, as it is a massive undertaking for the Institution and CUD does not want to be pressed for time to finish the sewer system in 2018 in order to avoid fines.

Cherry will be available to answer any last questions property owners may have regarding the matter at Saturday’s CPOA meeting.