CPOA meeting discusses sewer plant update ahead of Tuesday vote

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Chautauqua Property Owners Association President Hugh Butler (left) and Chautauqua Utility District Superintendent Tom Cherry (right) hold a Q-and-A session during the annual CPOA members meeting in the Hall of Christ Saturday.

Tom Cherry, supervisor of the Chautauqua Utility District, stole the spotlight at the Chautauqua Property Owner’s Association annual meeting Saturday in the Hall of Christ. Cherry took over the role of Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan — who was originally scheduled to appear at the meeting but had a last-minute conflict — to speak about CUD’s plans for a new sewer plant.

Cherry had originally hoped to have the Department of Environmental Conservation’s stamp of approval on CUD’s sewer plant engineering designs by Saturday’s meeting. While he couldn’t report a complete endorsement from the DEC yet, he said that 90 percent of the engineering plans had been approved. According to Cherry, the DEC is now only waiting on a bit more information from the project design engineers — to satisfy a series of regulations known as the 10 State Standards — to pass the designs in full.

Cherry said he is currently hounding the DEC and the engineers in order to get the letter of approval in time for the sewer plant vote, slated for today.

Cherry also said that the expected price of implementing the new sewer system is up in the air. Currently estimated at a maximum cap of $8 million, CUD expects bids to come in lower. If the projected cost ends up being more, however, Cherry said that CUD will have to raise its maximum and redo the same vote next season.

“We still don’t know how much sewer plant renovation is going to cost,” he said. “We still won’t know until after renovation.”

Regardless of several undefined variables left in the sewer plant equation, Cherry and the rest of CUD have stressed the significance of updating the plant. The CPOA also made its position clear at Saturday’s meeting, officially announcing its support of a “yes” vote on today’s ballot.

Cherry then fielded questions from the audience regarding the lake and wastewater management. A common worry among community members was the recent water shortage in Toledo, and fear that Chautauqua Lake may be headed down a similar path. Toledo spent three days without water after cell ruptures in blue-green algae blooms released toxins in their water supply of Lake Erie. The same algae blooms are currently found in Chautauqua Lake.

“It looks like there’s green snowflakes in our lake,” Cherry said. “This [algae] is a normal function of a lake, but it is accelerated and magnified by the presence of excess phosphorus. We are monitoring the situation right now, and we have tests as of yesterday that say we’re fine. I don’t expect any problems.”

Cherry said updating the Institution’s 37-year-old wastewater treatment facilities would mean being able to remove greater amount of phosphorus from Chautauqua’s water and decreasing its chance of meeting the same fate as Toledo.

Town of Chautauqua Supervisor Don Emhart also took the microphone to brief property owners about the state of wastewater affairs in local regions. Emhart said the town recently funded a $50,000 study on sewer systems and is currently working to eradicate remaining septic systems around the lake, which contribute a great deal of phosphorus runoff. The town is planning to seek grants at both the state and federal levels to help pay for the upgrades.

“We realized it’s going to take a lot more money to do what needs to be done with this lake than just what we have locally,” Emhart said.

In addition to discussion of the impending sewer vote, there were several other agenda items touched on at Saturday’s meeting. Bill Neches, vice president of the CPOA, gave an update concerning how Chautauquans should prepare for the end of the summer in terms of their internet and cable capabilities.

“There was a lot of confusion with Time Warner Cable in the beginning of the summer, and there will be a lot of confusion as everyone gets ready to leave,” Neches said.

In the next week or so Neches plans to have formulated a checklist of how to properly leave any internet and cable from Time Warner, which he will then post on both the Chautauqua Grapevine and the CPOA’s website.

Butler also announced that the CPOA will be sponsoring a night at the movies, with “Boyhood” slated to be shown Aug. 25 at the Chautauqua Cinema. Anyone who comes to the event toting any sort of “Shared Space” logo will be admitted free of charge.

Finally, Barbara Brady announced new members of the CPOA board for the upcoming year. This includes Brady’s appointment to the vice president position and Neches’ ascension to the presidency. Butler, the outgoing president, was elected to the Institution’s board of trustees during the Chautauqua Corporation meeting later Saturday morning.