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Sewage plant may go near trail

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A slice of former railroad property is gaining favor as the site of Summit's proposed sewage treatment facility.

The long-proposed plant would provide public sewage treatment for about 500 homes and businesses in the village of Herman.

The township is working with Buffalo Township, which appears to own the land near Loco Lane, a private drive off Herman Road.

The 10-acre tract was used as a turnaround for locomotive engines that traveled the rail line that is now the adjacent Butler-Freeport Community Trail.

“They asked us about it and we're debating whether we want to keep that piece of property,” said Buffalo Township Supervisor John Haven.

Haven said Buffalo Township just finished clearing trees and brush from the land for possible use as a recreational area. “We'd rather it not be a sewage plant if they can go across the road.”

The other site being considered for the plant is across Herman Road at the former Summit baseball fields on land owned by Robert “Beau” Sechan.

“The railroad piece is the better of the two in terms of flood-plain issues,” said Rich Craft, project engineer with Olsen & Associates of Butler, the township's engineer. “Coal Run goes through the (Sechan) area and there is a FEMA-defined flood plain through the property. That's one less unknown we would have.”

He said construction costs for both sites would be about the same, despite the uneven terrain on the railroad site.

“It's not level. It's not the perfect location,” said Summit Supervisor Willie Adams. “But with some excavating it could be made into a site.”

The township has been negotiating with Sechan on an exclusive option to purchase the ballfield property and conduct state-required environmental testing, but Sechan hasn't made it easy, township officials said.

Sechan or his attorney typically takes several weeks to respond to township inquiries, Summit Supervisor Larry Osche told Buffalo Township's supervisors in April.

“I'm not sure what his plans were for it, but he doesn't seem to be interested in selling it,” Adams said.

Sechan said that's not necessarily the case.

“I don't have to sell it, but if the price is right I might dispose of some of it,” said Sechan, who lives in Florida, but still operates a business in Pennsylvania. He said he doesn't have a problem with a sewage plant located near property he'd still own.

“I think we'll probably be able to work out something,” he said. “My attorneys handle most of the sales stuff.”

In 2004, the state Department of Environmental Protection found failing septic systems in the Herman area and mandated that Summit Township find a solution.

Since then, the department has been tracking the township's progress toward installing public sewage there.

A 60-day deadline for Summit to provide an update is approaching.

“It's routine, but DEP wants to see action,” said Summit's solicitor, Michael Gallagher.

Summit officials have consulted with the Municipal Authority of Buffalo Township, the Saxonburg Area Authority and Butler Area Sewer Authority to see if they might be suitable providers.

The township twice pursued the option of running a sewage line through Jefferson Township to the Saxonburg Area Authority.

But Jefferson residents opposed the seven-mile line along Thorn Run.

Summit later abandoned the plan in favor of building its own treatment plant.

“We run into obstacles with every other plan,” Adams said of why the township has settled on building its own treatment facility.

Buffalo and Summit officials are scheduled to meet at the former rail site soon.

Although Buffalo claims the property, Gallagher is conducting an extensive deed search and investigation into who owns the land in order to avoid any problems if a sale proceeds.

It's unclear if Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) owns the land because the parcel was conveyed to Buffalo Township via a ‘quitclaim' deed, Gallagher said.

A quitclaim is not a guarantee that Buffalo has clear title to the property because the entity conveying the property relinquishes the rights and not the title.

Butler County property records list Pennsylvania Railroad Co. as the owner, but Haven said Buffalo holds the deed.

“We purchased all the property that Penn Central had, and that was part of it,” Haven said.

Buffalo owns the 20-mile rails-to-trails, which runs from Freeport to the City of Butler.

The rail line ultimately was operated by Penn Central Corp. (formerly Pennsylvania Railroad), which went bankrupt in the 1970s. Its assets were split between Amtrak and Conrail.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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