Findley Lake Votes ‘No’

When I saw the projected cost for the Findley Lake sewer system, I didn’t think it would pass. The projected cost was over $1,300 per user a year and over $600 per vacant lot.

By 10 votes, property owners said: “No thanks!” Since there is currently no formula or program to project state and federal aid, the Findley Lake project was presented to the voters using only local government borrowing and bonding-result, the referendum failed.

Unlike a county-sponsored sewer project, township-sponsored voting rolls are open to all property owners, including non-residents. Had the project been limited to only voting residents (as applies at the county level,) I expect that the margin of defeat would have been even greater.

Property owners from places like Cleveland or Pittsburgh likely voted “Yes” and probably made the vote as close as it was.

So what is the message for the rest of us, especially those who live around Chautauqua Lake? I would say that without state and federal aid, a referendum like that held in Findley Lake will also likely go “down the tubes” here on Chautauqua Lake.

Back in the “good old days” of the 1980s (the last time sewers were built along Chautauqua Lake) there was a federal clean waters program that paid 50 percent of the cost and the state had a program that paid another 25 percent. Local government, back then, only had to come up with 25 percent of the construction cost.

Now, there are no statutory formula programs from Albany or Washington to help offset local costs. New York state just passed a $2.5 billion program to assist on a case-by-case basis, but the federal government has no readily available aid program that I know of.

The Findley Lake vote is a “wake-up” call for those of us who live on Chautauqua Lake. Without state and federal aid, I doubt that a referendum could pass for sewer construction. I must admit that my wife (among others) says that I am too much of a “dooms-dayer,” that I always see too much of the negative side of things. However, I would characterize my views as being that of a “realist.” I think that unless we can get the projected cost into three figures, that is, under $1,000 per year, that sewers around Chautauqua Lake are a pipe-dream.

So what do we need? More planning or study money from Albany and Washington won’t do it. What we need are cash-grant infrastructure construction dollars. You can get all the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study money you want or more research/engineering money from the state of New York — but that isn’t going to lower local sewer user costs.

We need cash/grant money that can be used to put sewer pipes and pump stations in the ground.

In my view, had federal or state dollars been available for the Findley Lake project… voters would have voted “Yes.” My understanding is that local public officials involved in extending sewers around Chautauqua Lake will only present a program which includes the expectation that state and/or federal money will be part of the project.

That will be necessary in order to make the sewer system affordable.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.