Water treatment plant needs new computer

Gwen Chamberlain

Turning on the tap to get clean, reliable drinking water seems simple enough, but a lot has to happen between Keuka Lake and the typical residential kitchen sink.

And much of what happens depends on the effectiveness of a computerized system in the village’s water treatment plant. But now that the brain behind that system is beginning to show some serious signs of age, village officials are trying to find a way to replace it, and there’s a question about how its replacement will be financed.

At last week’s regular village board meeting, Deputy Mayor Willie Allison, the liaison with the village’s Municipal Utilities Board (MUB), offered a resolution which was eventually passed, authorizing MUB to spend up to $225,000 to replace the computer.

Dick Osgood, assistant director of public works, told the village board it’s important to replace the computer soon, while the demand for water is lower. “We need to do it now, when the flow is low, or you’ll have eight or nine people working seven days a week while that machine is going in. It’s going to be costly, but on the other hand, if it fails, you’re going to have that many people operating the plant until you can get another one.”

Osgood said there are times when water treatment plant operators need to trick the system because there are problems with communications between the treatment plant and one of the reservoirs. He also said the touch screen is inoperable.

While none of the village board members disputed the need for the new equipment, they were concerned about the wording of the motion that came from the MUB, an oversight board that meets a few days before the regular village board meeting.

The MUB had recommended the motion’s wording state the village board would authorize spending up to $225,000 for the system upgrade at the water treatment plant, providing the money is available in the capital improvement fund.

But Osgood says he inquired, and learned there is only $48,000 in the capital fund. While another $12,000 will come in soon with the next quarterly billing, that still leaves a sizable gap.

Because of the wording of the motion, the village board may need to meet again to make money available in the right fund.

Two days after the meeting, Trustee Robert Church, who is chairman of the finance committee, said the village may need to postpone purchasing the computer until funds are available, or the village may need to issue bonds to pay for the equipment.

The Penn Yan water treatment plant serves the villages of Penn Yan and Dresden in addition to water districts in Jerusalem, Milo and Benton.