SALAMANCA — The Salamanca Board of Public Utilities is hoping the approval of a $5 million grant will make its proposed $25 million project to relocate its water plant a little easier to complete.
The Common Council authorized the submission of the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement grant application Wednesday.
The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently completed a water plant relocation study with HUNT Engineers and has the components in place to progress on the project dependent upon being awarded the grant funds.
The city applied for the same grant in 2022 but was unsuccessful, said Sandi Brundage, grant administrator.
“Due to a bonding issue, we weren’t funded,” she explained. “We’ve squared that away so we’re going to apply again.”
Because the grant would only cover about 20% of the project even if fully funded, Brundage said they’re also going to look for other funding options such as the state’s revolving fund.
Brundage said the plan is to bond for much of the project’s cost, but cannot exceed the BPU’s bond limit.
Regardless, BPU General Manager Dennis Hensel said they are committed to starting the relocation project, which would see a new water plant built off County Road 49 (Killbuck Road).
“HUNT Engineers are working on it daily already,” he said. “Wherever we can find the extra funds, we’re going to try to get them.”
Hensel said the $25 million is not needed upfront, adding the project will be done in phases with smaller milestone payments over the life of the project.
The proposed site for the new plant already has two wells, Hensel said. He said it’s in a secluded space far from any contamination, which had been a problem in the city due to the railroads.
When planning for the project began, Hensel said an idea proposed by the engineers was to include a line item on customers’ water and sewer bills for residents to help pay for with an additional fee.
“We’re doing everything we can to not have to do that,” he said. “I don’t want that to appear on our bills.”
The council gave the project their blessing in September 2022 following a public hearing required to apply for a $1.25 million Community Development Block Grant the city applied for.
At that meeting, members of the council expressed shock at the project’s cost but said it was a project that needed to be done and couldn’t be put off any further.
“If it’s our water supply, that affects every single person and business in the city of Salamanca,” council member Janet Koch, D-Ward 5, said at the time.
“I think we need to start, as bad as it hurts,” said council member John “Jack” Hill, D-Ward 1.
Bryan White, a professional engineer with HUNT, said the firm had been working with the BPU since 2021 on the project as problems continued to arise with the water system, especially with water loss. He said there was a 70% loss between what the system produced and what property owners were being billed for.
“The old system is well beyond its useful life,” he said. “There’s multiple main breaks, meters that don’t work, pumps that don’t work. Just a ton of maintenance headaches that are always ongoing.”
Brundage noted that the water study performed by HUNT was paid for through a CDBG the city received in 2021, which helped the city see what exactly was wrong and what needs to be done.