2017-08-09 / Front Page

Walton Abandons Proposed Biodigester

By Lillian Browne

Walton Mayor Ed Snow, outside the village’s wastewater treatment plant. 
file photo Walton Mayor Ed Snow, outside the village’s wastewater treatment plant. file photo WALTON - Walton trustees unanimously voted to halt all forward movement on the proposed, controversial biodigester project at a special meeting held Aug. 4, according to Walton Mayor Ed Snow.

The project, Snow said, hinged on Kraft being the primary user of the proposed biodigester. However, he said, Kraft sent the village a letter, dated Aug. 2, stating that it does not wish to move forward with a contract, because it would add to the operating costs of the company.

Based upon that letter, and a promise to sewer users that the biodigester would not be built unless Kraft agreed to a contract, trustees, Snow said, decided to drop the project completely.

A smaller biodigester will not be pursued, he said.

Though the project will not continue and a biodigester will not be built, there is still a half-million-dollar bill to be paid to Delaware Engineering for their design of the project. Snow attempted to gain permission from the state to use a grant that was promised for the construction of a pipeline from the biodigester to Kraft and the middle/high school campus on Stockton Avenue to pay the engineer costs, but was denied.

Other payment options are being pursued but the worst case scenario, Snow said, is that those fees will be paid by sewer users. After discussing the issue with loan financiers, it was discovered that the engineering fees could be paid over 20 years, which would amount to approximately $15 per year, per user.

Additional Costs

Despite the fact that the project is not going forward, sewer users will see a hefty increase in their bills in the coming months. Kraft, Snow explained, had been covering approximately 60 percent of the sewer operating costs through their usage of the wastewater treatment plant. Because they have decreased their use of the plant, the amount of money they pay toward operating expenses has also decreased - by approximately $150,000 per year.

That is not an amount that can be offset by eliminating employees at the sewer plant, Snow said, because New York state mandates the number of employees a plant that size must have.

However, Snow said, other sewer plant users are being pursued to offset those costs. If no other users are found, he said, the 1,900 sewer district users will have to pay those fees.

In related business, Snow reported that though negotiations are ongoing, there has been no settlement of the Kraft lawsuit against the county, town, village and school district to have their taxes reduced.

Kraft filed a lawsuit against the different municipalities in 2016 to have their property taxes reduced by 90 percent.

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