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Brocton, Portland to pull out of CBI pact

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen Portland Supervisor Rich Lewis and the Town Board recently declared the Town’s intent to depart from an intermunicipal agreement with Chadwick Bay Intermunicipal Water Works (CBI) at year’s end. The Village of Brocton followed with the same decision just days later.

PORTLAND — Tension between the Town of Portland, the Village of Brocton, and Chadwick Bay Intermunicipal Water Works (CBI) has finally reached its boiling point.

The Portland Town Board recently declared its intent to depart from an intermunicipal agreement with CBI by the end of the year. The Village of Brocton followed with the same decision just days later, leaving three remaining municipalities as part of the agreement moving forward as it stands — Pomfret, Sheridan, and the Town of Dunkirk.

Portland made its declaration to leave the intermunicipal agreement following an exit from a regular meeting of the Town Board into executive session to privately discuss the matter. The reasoning to enter into executive session was stated by Supervisor Rich Lewis as “contract negotiations.” The Board returned to regular session later that night to pass a resolution to make the Town’s departure official. The following Monday, the Village of Brocton made the same declaration near the end of its recent Village Board meeting.

“There’s going to be some things we have to figure out about the withdrawal,” Village Attorney Peter Clark said at the meeting. In the days since, the Village and the Town drafted a letter to notify CBI of the decision. The municipalities planned to serve notice of the departure through a process server on Friday.

The decision for the exit from an agreement with CBI was a long time coming for both Brocton and Portland.

Brocton Mayor Craig Miller said the Village has had “really productive talks with the Town of Portland,” regarding how to handle billing and service of water and sewer in the Village without CBI.

Lewis and several other Board members of the Town and the Village have voiced frustration with CBI dating back well over a year. Service and maintenance issues, accessibility to residents, and consistent billing issues are among the many reasons that pushed the Town and the Village to seek a better solution to provide for its residents.

Another reason behind the decision to exit is that by handling billing on its own, the Town and the Village are in better control of the sewer service payments from residents. The Village hosts its own Waste Water treatment plant, of which Lewis is the Waste Water Treatment Supervisor.

Both the Town and the Village are discussing how to proceed with handling billing and service issues collaboratively, rather than relying on CBI. Brocton Mayor Craig Miller said the Village has had “really productive talks with the Town of Portland.”

As Wastewater Treatment Supervisor, Lewis attends Brocton Village Board meetings regularly. He often comes before the Board to discuss purchases before making them whether policy states he needs to or not. Miller often thanks Lewis for “doing homework” on the purchases before they are made, in an effort to be fiscally responsible for the Village and Town residents.

In March, Chautauqua County Legislator John Penhollow referred to the Town’s dealings with CBI as a “long, arduous, convoluted mess for a long period of time.”

Penhollow also commended Lewis for his dealings with CBI and on the Board of the North Chautauqua County Water District. He stated that Lewis “has done a fantastic job on both CBI and North County Water, and all the Boards that he’s on, protecting and representing the taxpayers and ratepayers of the Town of Portland and the Village of Brocton.”

At the time of Penhollow’s comments earlier this year, he was optimistic that progress was being made with the issues between CBI and its participating municipalities, but for the Town of Portland and the Village of Brocton, any progress since those comments were made was not enough to change the Board members’ minds.

In April of 2023, Portland Town Board member Tammy Thompson criticized CBI at a Town Board meeting. After a main valve shut off at the Town Hall, Thompson attempted to contact CBI to address the matter, but no one answered the call. She did not receive a response until 10 a.m. the following morning.

Because of the delayed response, Thompson stressed how troublesome it would be if that were the case in an emergency. Thompson said, “If I had a water main break, how many hours would have gone by where I had flooding water, in a basement, where I can’t stop it? For a homeowner, that would be the same thing … and then they will try to bill them for all the water that dumped into their house.”

Also of note, CBI was referenced several times throughout audit reports from the State Comptroller’s Office of both the North Chautauqua County Water District and the Town of Sheridan, which previously hosted and oversaw the operations of CBI under former Town Supervisor John Walker II. After Walker suddenly passed away, CBI shifted operations to the Town of Pomfret, led by Supervisor Dan Pacos, while the Town of Sheridan agreed to rent office space to CBI.

Of other water related news in the area, Clark has also contacted the Department of Corrections to request payment for the water system providing service to the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Center. Clark stated, “It could be a significant amount of money.”

The Village also had a brief discussion regarding its reservoir and surrounding land. Brocton Trustee Ed Bellando expressed interest in looking into the matter further.

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