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Amherst estimates cost in tens of millions to bring sewer system up to standard

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Mike Desmond
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WBFO News

The Town of Amherst is looking at tens of millions of dollars in spending to bring its sewage treatment plant and its network of sewer lines up to today's standard.

That includes the planned merger with the Village of Williamsville sewer system, once the village spends millions to bring its system to standard. Problems range from an aging treatment plant to too much stormwater leaking into the sewer lines and into treatment to gutters and sump pumps putting water into the system.

"We're going to, as a town, purposely put a lot of funding and effort into bioretention, bioremediation, green infrastructure, so as to deal with storm water as it hits the ground, instead of letting it shed into our sanitary sewer system," said Supervisor Brian Kulpa. "But we need to make sure that we deal with it holistically."

Kulpa said major new development plans will help the fiscal needs.

"We've been talking about infrastructure and infrastructure needs in Amherst for a long time," Kulpa said. "That's one of the reasons why getting reinvestment into the west side of the town is critical. It's a town area that is already built out. As we see reinvestment and we see property value increase over on that end of town, it will create a tax base and anchor to allow us to continue to put money into our system."

Several years ago, the town started putting millions of dollars into renovation and repair. Kulpa said that will continue to rise because the system needs so much work, even to provide sewer service to planned new developments, like Station Twelve, and potential major apartment construction on the Boulevard Mall site.

Kulpa said the plan is for development to pay for itself.
                 
"We're hoping to avoid heavy tax rate increases by seeing new tax value or new land value or new property value added to the roll, in meaningful places, where it replaces big box retail," he said. "But the only way to get there is to do good economic development, balanced with good green infrastructure and good green facilities."

The green infrastructure isn't something new, since Williamsville, where Kulpa was mayor, has successful projects like Spring Street. Buffalo also has done green projects, particularly along Ohio Street, to keep stormwater out of the sewer system.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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