Wilson board votes down bonding funds

·3 min read

Sep. 4—WILSON — A plan to take the Wilson wastewater treatment plant offline and send wastewater to Newfane is in jeopardy after the village board's second refusal to authorize borrowing that may be needed to complete the project.

During a special meeting on Tuesday, the authorizing resolution went down to defeat on a 3-2 vote. Supermajority approval, or at least four votes in favor, was required.

"It's just a bad day," Mayor Arthur Lawson said of the outcome, adding that he believes a majority of village residents would agree with him.

Lawson called the special meeting after the borrowing resolution was voted down in the board's Aug. 18 meeting.

According to Lawson, the Wastewater Treatment Plant Consolidation & Force Grant Resolution provides the "language" for the village to apply for three grants that would help bridge the $2.4 million gap between the project tab and the $4.5 million the village received through the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) in 2019.

At the time of the REDI award, the cost to shut down the village treatment plant and contract with Newfane for treatment service was $4.6 million. The cost has increased to about $6.8 million due to global supply issues, Lawson said.

The resolution would give Lawson the authority to borrow up to $3.5 million to complete consolidation, thereby demonstrating to the state that the village is able to bridge the gap itself if no other grant funding is obtained. It's an administrative formality, Lawson said, and without the language the village can't apply for the grants.

Lawson said he believes the worst case scenario has the village borrowing $430,000 — at 0% interest and payable over a 30- to 40-year period.

The consequence of the board rejecting his request is that the village will have to abandon the project, unless other funding is found, Lawson said. If the project is abandoned, the village would have to return the REDI grant to the state, including the $500,000 it already spent on engineering. To pay it back would not be an easy thing to do, he said.

Since the resolution was voted down first on Aug. 18, village trustee Gary Darnell changed his mind and this week voted to approve it. Trustees Mike McAvoy and Greg Martin did not change their minds.

McAvoy said the way the resolution is written, it's not about applying for grants, it's about spending more money and he's not in favor.

"The resolution was to vote on an amended bond resolution. The vote was to enable the village to bond $3.5 million if need be," he said. "I could've gone either way, but I listened to the community."

About 40 residents attended the Tuesday meeting and according to Lawson, many of them said they're opposed to borrowing money for a project whose price tag keeps increasing.

Trustee Brad Simpson, who voted in favor of the authorizing resolution, said the state is at least partly to blame for Wilson's dilemma.

"I hope the state sees our position and realizes it's not entirely on us," he said. "What we'd originally applied for was a $5.5 million project and they said they'd give $4.6 million, and it was take it or leave it. I wish they'd realize some of it was on them."