Engineering Firm Selected For Sewer Consolidation Study

The South & Center Sewer District board has chosen O’Brien & Gere as the firm to complete the Chautauqua County Wastewater Consolidation Study.

Lance Spicer, board chairman, began Tuesday’s special board meeting at which the decision was made.

“We are here for one purpose today – to choose an engineer to complete the (sewer) consolidation study,” Spicer said.

According to Tom Walsh, South & Center Sewer District director of operations, three engineering firms that submitted proposals and interviewed were given serious consideration: URS Corporation, O’Brien & Gere and Clark Patterson Lee.The interview process consisted of 20-minute, electronic-free presentations and 10 minutes of questions from a committee of stakeholders affected by the sewer study, including: Walsh; Mark Geise, deputy director of Planning and Economic Development for Chautauqua County; Don McCord, senior planner of Planning and Economic Development for Chautauqua County; Christine Humphrey, South & Center Sewer District; William Boria, water resource specialist at the Chautauqua County Health Department; county legislator Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point; Tom Carlson, director of the North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District; Tom Cherry, superintendent of the Chautauqua Utility District; Don Emhardt, town of Chautauqua supervisor; and Sally Carlson, town of North Harmony supervisor.

“We got through (the interviews) as efficiently as possible,” Walsh said.

Walsh discussed the presentation by O’Brien & Gere with the board.

“I was very impressed by this firm,” Walsh said. “They were a very enthusiastic, young team. They were very well-organized and answered our questions well.”

He added that the firm plans to contract Dr. Elizabeth Moran, president of EcoLogic LLC, to work on the study.

“The grant stipulates that a women’s business enterprise be a part of the study,” Walsh said. “Moran is already conducting lake studies, and she will collaborate with O’Brien & Gere.”

O’Brien & Gere bid $49,000 for the project.

Regarding URS Corporation, Walsh said that he had some concerns.

“URS worked with South & Center last year on a capacity study,” Walsh said. “(John Goodard, project manager for URS) is the leading expert on sewers in this area, but we didn’t see a broad spectrum of input from other URS associates.”

According to Walsh, Goodard is “brilliant,” but was difficult to work with during the previous study.

The bid from URS for the project was roughly $63,000.

Since the grant South & Center received for the project was for $50,000, Walsh said that he was unsure why URS bid an amount greater than the grant provides.

The board also discussed Clark Patterson Lee’s interview.

“They are knowledgeable of our area and really focused on bringing municipalities together,” Walsh said. “They did not touch on the science part of the study during the interview.”

The lack of scientific explanation was an issue for the stakeholders’ committee.

“As a committee, we do recommend O’Brien & Gere for the project,” Walsh said.

Chagnon made a point to explain his position to the board.

He said that because his daughter is a project engineer for O’Brien & Gere, he abstained from voting during the interview process. He also said that he would abstain from voting during the South & Center board vote, to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

Spicer noted that Chagnon’s disclosure was “very appropriate.”

With consideration of the vote by the stockholders’ committee, the South & Center Sewer board voted unanimously to approve the resolution to enter into contract with O’Brien & Gere. The resolution was submitted to the county legislature, as legislature approval is required for South & Center to enter into contract with the engineering firm.

According to Walsh, the matter should be on the legislature’s docket Wednesday night. At that time, pending legislature approval, South & Center will enter into contract with O’Brien & Gere, who has suggested a 12-week timeline for the study.

Jackson Smith was in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting, marking his first meeting as an official board member.