Starks takes reins as new CUD head as plant upgrades are completed

  • Mike Starks, Superintendent of Operations, performs tests at the in house lab at Chautauqua Utility District on Friday, June 22, 2018. Starks recently took over as Superintendent and has worked at Chautauqua Utility District for 12 years. ABIGAIL DOLLINS/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

In August 2014, Chautauquans went to the polls in the lobby of the Colonnade to vote on an $8 million project that would significantly expand and upgrade the Chautauqua Utility District’s wastewater treatment plant at the south end of the grounds.

The project would bring the plant into compliance with 20-year-old federal clean water legislation passed during the Clinton administration.

Convinced of the project’s merit by now-retired CUD Superintendent Tom Cherry and with the strong support of the Chautauqua Property Owners Association, Chautauquans approved the measure by more a 95-percent margin.

Funding for the project would be borrowed on bond markets and repaid by increased property taxes on individual property owners and on the Institution itself. As expected, the huge project was completed late last fall. While there are some elements that are still being perfected, new CUD Superintendent Mike Starks said the new plant has lived up to expectations.

Starks took over as superintendent as initial testing of the new plant was completed, and he is just getting familiar with the community as the new utility district boss.

“We are constantly working on our new SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system,” Starks said. “This state-of-the-art system allows us to perform diagnostics and trouble- shoot from a master control panel in my office. The benefits for safety and efficiency are tremendous.”

Water flow and pump performance are other areas under careful scrutiny, Starks said.

Meanwhile, the time to pay for the project has arrived. That means that for Chautauqua Institution and Chautauqua Shores property owners, their 2019 town of Chautauqua property tax bills will increase noticeably.

The CUD estimate of the average property tax increase has held steady at around $400 per household for nearly four years, and Starks expects property owners will see roughly that increase when the 2019 bills arrive in their mailboxes toward the end of this year.

Although voters authorized $8 million for the project, Cherry said four years ago that if bond rates stayed low, the cost for the plant would likely come in at a lower figure. It has.

Pending final resolution of all contractor invoices, Starks said the total cost would likely end up at around $7.2 million, or 10 percent less than the authorized level.

Tags : Chautauqua Property Owners AssociationChautauqua Utility DistrictTom Cherrywastewater treatment plant

The author John Ford

John Ford is in his ninth year with the Daily. He reports on general news, does feature reporting and writes the weekly Chautauqua Conversations column. A wire service reporter for United Press International prior to embarking on a career as a foreign service officer with the Department of State, he currently writes a regular column on American politics and foreign relations for one of the two principal daily newspapers in Nassau, Bahamas.