Tonawanda News

September 12, 2012

Complaint leads to sewer study

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Director of  Water Resources Ken Maving gave a presentation on the town’s sewer billing practices at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday in response to a resident’s concern due to his high bills. 

“Approximately a month ago, a resident, Kenneth Martin, asked us to look into our sewer billing,” Councilman Joe Emminger said.

Martin, of Parker Boulevard, had inquired about the possibility of individual irrigation meters and other options to reduce residents’ bills. 

But Maving’s presentation showed that the town’s sewer practices are the most efficient way of charging residents and coming up with the $12 million needed in revenue. Since the Wastewater Treatment Facility was installed in 1978, the quarterly sewer bill is based on two factors — water and sewage usage and a property tax. 

As a result of the town’s policy, Tonawanda has one of the lowest average sewage bills in Western and Central New York with $17.32 for a monthly charge, according to Maving. The average in the area is $32.14.

“We are looking very good in comparison,” Maving said.

Maving said the irrigation meters Martin is pushing for could be an opt-in option for residents, and are used in the City of Tonawanda, but would likely be very costly.

The City of Tonawanda only has about 8 percent of residents using an irrigation meter and only has one or two applicants per year. The cost to the resident would be about $500 or more, which includes the purchase of the meter, a permit, an outside reader and the hiring of a plumber for inspection purposes. That figure doesn’t include an administration cost the town could apply. 

And Maving said any lost revenue from those opt-in residents would be redistributed to others living in the town. 

“I talked to a lot of different municipalities and districts, and we have the most equitable system right now as is,” Maving said. 

Martin said he agreed that it may be the most equitable system but thinks residents should be able to choose to have another meter. He questioned Maving’s experience and became frustrated with the board’s unwillingness to change the policy at the meeting.

“But you do water Kenney Field, and that’s unmetered,” Martin said. “How is that fair?”

The town’s afternoon work session also included a number of discussion items, such as Highway Superintendent Bill Swanson’s request to purchase three new highway vehicles, which led to a somewhat contentious discussion of budget constraints.

“They are just tired,” Swanson said. “They are used every day.”

Swanson said the large tandem-axle cab and chassis are used for a variety of purposes and are needed to complete projects and maintenace work in the town. Some $480,000 would be taken from the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve Fund to purchase the trucks. 

Emminger questioned Swanson on the necessity of new trucks with such a tight budget. The old ones have 140,000, 161,000, and 193,000 miles on them. 

“The one has 53,000 miles less than the other,” Emminger said. “Ideally, we would replace all of them, but can’t we stretch that out and save some money.”

But Swanson and Councilman Don Crangle assured Emminger that the replacements are needed. 

“I am pinching every penny, I’ve done everything I can,” Swanson asid. “But I need equipment, otherwise I can’t do the jobs. It’s a safety issue, too.” 

Although Emminger seemed reluctant, he presented the request as necessary later in the town’s regular meeting Tuesday evening. The board then approved the purchases. 

Also on the agenda was the board’s discussion of the possibility of an army tank display at Kenney Field.

“The Army contacted the Veteran’s Post and offered to give them an old tank,” Town Attorney John Flynn said. 

Flynn said John Washington, of the Veteran’s Post, contacted Director of Youths, Park and Recreation Dan Wiles to see if the town would be interested in creating a permanent spot for the tank at Kenney Field alongside the iconic blue Navy plane at the park.

The town approved a resolution to accept the post’s application. 

Flynn said the town needs to make sure the Army will ship the tank at no cost to the town. 

“There might be minimal cost in making an area for it, and maybe installing a fence,” he said. 

The Army tank will add to the plane and Veterans’ Memorial at the park. Crangle said if the application goes as planned, the tank could be shipped this spring. 

“I think it’s pretty exciting,” Supervisor Anthony Caruana said. “It will be a nice addition.”

  Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.