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Office of the Chautauqua County Executive
Chautauqua County was recently awarded $1.2 million through New York State’s Municipal Restructuring Fund (MRF) to develop a Water and Wastewater Cooperative, a project originally included in the 2017 Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition.
The funding will be released in phases, provided the project continues to advance, with the phase I award of up to $50,000 to develop a formal project plan and structure. The concept of a water and wastewater cooperative was identified while the Regional Solutions Commission was
developing projects for the 2017 Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition (MCEC) of which Chautauqua County was one of only six finalists.
The Water and Wastewater Cooperative would include small municipal water and wastewater systems throughout the county. The primary purpose would be to develop a model to share staff coverage as the nationwide shortage of certified operators continues, and many local operators near retirement. It would potentially also help small systems reduce staff, as most of the time one employee is all that is needed, but they must employ two so there is coverage in case of emergency or time off for the main operator.
“Developing a Water and Wastewater Cooperative in Chautauqua County will help address a major concern while also saving county residents and water system users money,” said Chautauqua County Sr. Water Resource Specialist Bill Boria. “One of our most important jobs is protecting public health by ensuring drinking water is safe and reliable and that wastewater is properly treated. This project will ensure more stable coverage by trained staff and other efficiencies like bulk purchasing of treatment chemicals and shared equipment, which are only possible by working together.”
In addition to a shared staffing model, the Water and Wastewater cooperative would organize similar purchases and contracted services such as treatment chemicals and laboratory testing services. These items are currently purchased by each system separately, whereas bulk bidding together would likely yield savings due to larger quantities. Should the project move to full implementation, grant funding would also be released to purchase shared equipment to perform such tasks as leak detection and line repairs, most of which are currently contracted out leading to added cost and sometimes delays.
“Regional solutions and shared services are a top priority for me, so I am happy this project which I helped develop as chair of the Regional Solutions Commission is moving forward,” said Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello. “Receiving this MRF grant will enable us to develop an inter-municipal water and wastewater cooperative among 17 partner communities to stabilize staffing and generate long-term savings through shared equipment and purchasing. I thank our local municipal partners, Governor Cuomo, and our partners at the Department of State for helping us advance this innovative project and continuing to champion local government efficiency efforts.”