Watkins Glen sewer rates will likely rise
WATKINS GLEN--Village officials implored the Watkins board of trustees to increase sewer rates as soon as possible to offset a roughly $200,000 budgetary shortfall regarding the new wastewater treatment plant during the Tuesday, Sept. 22 board meeting. Water Reclamation Plant Supervisor Terry Wilcox informed the board the roughly $230,000 shortfall will only become exacerbated over time, growing to roughly $300,000 by Christmas unless something is done regarding sewer rates soon.
"We have to make increases to the sewer rate...I know we talked about this in numerous meetings and no one wants to raise the rates, but the mortgage has come due," Wilcox said. "I have serious concerns for the plant and maintaining the process... it's time to pay."
Board member Laurie DeNardo and Mayor Luke Leszyk discussed with Wilcox if raising rates during the pandemic, where traffic at Watkins Glen International is greatly reduced and schools were closed for a long period, would make sense when usage could return to normal in the future.
Wilcox responded that even if schools had been open and the racetrack fully operational, usage would do little to close the budget shortfall.
"Three months of usage won't negate (the shortfall)... (WGI) brings in revenue but not as much as I think you think it does," Wilcox told the board.
Wilcox added hotels are currently full throughout the village and the tourism industry, even without WGI and during a pandemic, has been strong in the summer.
"We are having high usage right now minus the track and the school," Wilcox said.
While no action was taken on sewer rates during the meeting, Wilcox said the issue of raising rates must be done as soon as possible and preferably at the next board meeting.
"We need an immediate increase in rates so we can start bringing in more revenue," Wilcox said.
Leszyk, who has previously acknowledged the need to not "kick the can down the road" regarding rate increases in the village, responded the board will most likely increase rates.
"Unfortunately, that looks like the road that we are going down," Leszyk said.
Further complicating matters regarding the new wastewater treatment plant is the fact that data over the first few months of operation has indicated that despite Montour Falls and Watkins Glen negotiating a 30/70 split of operational costs for the plant, Wilcox said Montour is using at least 40 percent capacity.
"I'm seeing days with Montour where the split is 50-50. I have nightmares and nightmares don't lie... Even with the track running and everything, I don't believe that 70/30 split will be an accurate figure," Wilcox said.
As a result of Montour's greater than expected usage, Wilcox said he could envision a need to renegotiate the cost-sharing percentages with Montour.
"Montour is going to have to come up because they are close to what our village is putting in," Wilcox said.
Despite the trend of Montour having higher usage than expected, Wilcox said he wants at least one full year of data before attempting to renegotiate the split with Montour.
"Flow rate appears to be a 60/40 split, but I want a year under my belt with readings on that," Wilcox added. "I think we will have a good feel on where we are after that and then yes, we will have to renegotiate the split."
At the beginning of the meeting newly elected Robert Carson was sworn in as a new board member replacing Anthony Fraboni, who did not run for reelection. Board member Laurie DeNardo, who won reelection, was also sworn in for another term.