Lower Burrell sets sewer tap-in fee for Wildlife Lodge Road homes
By Tom Yerace
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
Residents of Lower Burrell's Wildlife Lodge Road area will not have to pay a front footage assessment for sewers.
Members of the Lower Burrell Municipal Authority gave that news Tuesday night to about 50 residents of the 126 homes that are in the sewer project area.
Authority engineer Tony Males said, “There is no longer an assessment fee. The tap-in fee is $3,925.”
Ed Bloch, authority chairman, said initially the authority was going to help finance the project by charging home owners an assessment fee of $16 per foot for the front footage of each lot.
That would have been in addition to a $1,500 tap-in fee.
City officials estimated last year that the average cost altogether would be about $6,000 per property based on that.
Males said the authority arrived at the $3,925 tap-in fee by taking the amount of money it would have raised through the $16 per foot assessment and dividing it by the 126 households.
He said doing that made it more equitable with everyone paying the same amount.
“It just seemed to make more sense,” said authority member Dave Wohleber.
“Our tap-in fee is right in line with what it is in Allegheny Township and in Buffalo Township, and it is lower than Washington Township's,” Males said.
Bloch and Males said the city obtained a $144,000 federal Community Development Block Grant that will help some residents pay the tap-in fee.
Males said there are about 38 households that would qualify under income guidelines to receive that help.
Residents will be responsible to pay for installation of the lateral lines needed to connect their houses to the main sewer lines.
Males said the cost of that installation runs about $31 per foot. Residents could do the installation themselves, but it would have to get final approval from a city inspector.
Bloch said the $3.1 million project is being financed up front with $2.2 million from a 2011 bond issue and an $800,000 grant secured a few years ago by the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown.
He said the project is in two parts.
One is replacement of the Little Puckety Creek interceptor, a main sewer line that runs along and under the Route 56 Bypass down to the sewage treatment plant in New Kensington's Parnassus section.
The second part is the Wildlife Lodge Road residential area where individual septic systems in use would be replaced by sewage lines.
According to Males, that residential area includes houses in the area bounded by Wildlife Lodge Road and Milligantown Road on the eastern side and Oakbridge Drive on the western side with Seventh Street Road as the southern boundary and the Route 56 Bypass as the northern boundary.
Males said the work will be done under two contracts and will be put out for bid next month.
Residents are being asked to sign a document that will provide free rights of way to the authority to allow the sewer line installation.
Once the rights of way are obtained and the contracts awarded, he said, work would begin on both parts of the project in July to be completed by May 2014.
There were only a few questions asked by about 50 residents who attended the public hearing.
One came from William Burns of Wildlife Lodge Road who wondered about the need for the project.
He noted that the houses affected would be sending their sewage to a treatment plant that is under a federal consent decree due to discharges of sewage into the Allegheny River. That sometimes occurs during heavy rains when stormwater infiltrates the sanitary sewer lines.
“Why would we want to add another 126 homes to a system that is already putting sewage in our creek and the river?” Burns asked.
Solicitor Ron Valasek said the problem in Lower Burrell is not infiltration from combined sewer systems but malfunctioning septic systems that are polluting the environment.
Males said Lower Burrell has been put on notice by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“They would rather see a sewage treatment plant that has discharges five or six times a year rather than a malfunctioning septic system that is polluting 365 days a year,” Males said.
Bloch said the work on the Little Puckety interceptor is designed to help ease the infiltration problems at the treatment plant.
Males said the old 12-inch terra cotta sewer line was installed in 1960 in 6-foot sections, and is susceptible to breaks and cracks that let in stormwater.
Some of the line also is located right in Puckety Creek and runs under the bypass with sections that turn at right angles that hinder sewage flows and cause backups.
He said the new line is designed without the severe turns to improve flow. In addition, the line will be a larger, 15-inch plastic pipe that is installed in longer sections with fewer to seal.
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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