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shane 05-15-2009 05:50 PM

Cassadaga’s search for water has been a long and winding road
CASSADAGA - Close to 20 years ago, Cassadaga village officials began exploring for a new source of municipal water.

The village's system, installed in 1928 at a cost of $50,000, provided service to slightly over 480 residents living in 144 homes.

Lily Dale Assembly and the former Newton Memorial Hospital, now Cassadaga Job Corps Academy, also were served.

The $50,000 cost in 1928 to install the original municipal water system was paid off in 20 years with yearly payments of $2,500.

Cassadaga's water supply came from two relatively shallow wells which pumped it to the elevated storage tank on High Street.

In the 1980s, a third well was dug near to the original wells and the use of the shallower of the original wells was discontinued.

In the 1990s, village officials were told the wells, located just off Maple Avenue near the foot of Stockton Hill, were exposed to potential contamination should a fuel spill occur because of a truck accident. The Chautauqua County Health Department also expressed concern about ground water contamination at the site. Village officials were also concerned about providing a sufficient supply of water to meet current and future needs.

That's when the village board began looking for a new site in earnest.

The first place they looked was on Putnam Road, where they were told, a geological survey indicated a good source of water existed. But, after spending $70,063 to explore the site, it proved to be a bust.

The next site explored in 1992 involved land owned by Lily Dale across from the Shur Fine Supermarket on Route 60.

An initial test cost $1,000, but the village and Lily Dale could not reach agreement on the use of the land so that site was dropped.

Then came the property behind the Cassadaga Elementary School, again on Maple Avenue, but far enough away from the original wells to offer the protection needed.

The price for this exploration came to $73,304.

When the village officials ran into some resistance from the CVCS School Board about purchasing the school property, they moved their interests to the Dick Johnson property, again on Maple Avenue, next to the school.

Once again, a drilling rig was set up and the test boring began.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bust as well, after another $25,000 was spent.

Master plan studies dating back to 1992 cost the village $36,700.

Added to this expense were operating and maintenance costs such as $62,466 for water tank repairs and upkeep and a total of $92,179 for water line replacements on Park Avenue in 1996, Pennington Road in 1998 and Miller Place in 2002.

As of March 2008, the village has spent $360,985 on water related projects, according to figures compiled by village clerk-treasurer Roxanne Astry.

After approaching the CVCS School Board again about the elementary school property, an agreement was reached and the village paid the school district $20,000 for five acres of property.

Under state and local health regulations, this much land is needed to protect the well head.

Then, in order to gain unrestricted access to the school property, the village purchased adjoining land for $30,000.

So far, Sterns and Wheler, the engineering firm hired by the village to provide professional assistance for the water upgrade project, has submitted bills totaling $26,000.

That's another $76,000 and not one drop of new water has been added to the system so far.

Consulting engineer Greg McCorkhill has estimated it will cost the village $5 million to complete the project.

This includes $1.9 million in construction contracts; $785,000 for a new water tank; $332,000 in engineering services; $324,000 to drill a full production water well; $308,000 for a new pump house and $150,000 for the Putnam Road water line replacement.

The project's anticipated budget also calls for nearly $627,000 to cover contingencies that may arise.

McCorkhill has said the USDA has indicated Cassadaga is eligible for a $5 million low interest loan that would be paid back over 38 years.

The application for this loan has yet to receive final approval.

According to the 2000 census, there were 676 Cassadaga residents living in 315 homes.

The median income, again according to the census, was $43,359 with 130 residents reporting an income between $25,000 and $50,000 with the top earning of $200,000.

There were 108 residents on social security with a median income of $11,276 and 76 with a retirement income of $9,500.

The yearly payment for the $5 million debt is estimated to be $278,000.

The individual customer charge has yet to be established.

At the last village board meeting, a resolution introduced by Trustee Rudy Abersold to keep the water rate at its current level until more precise information is known was unanimously approved. The decision of where to go from here rests with a new village board that includes two new trustees and a new mayor at the helm.

The new village board members have also indicated they think the cost of the project needs to be reviewed and revised.

McCorkhill recently indicated he believes the cost of the new water tank can be reduced.

He also says if the project is to move forward, bids should be sought this year on the well development, water tank and Putnam Road portion of the project.

If the bids come in within the anticipated costs, the project could get under way in early summer, he said.

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