Cheswick continues to explore water service options
By Tom Yerace
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Getting water for Cheswick residents while keeping the borough's collective head above it is the challenge council will wrestle with until next September.
That's when the initial three years of its contract to buy water from Harmar will expire. Cheswick pays Harmar $2.55 per thousand gallons.
However, the borough has an option for two more years at a cost of $2.65 per thousand gallons.
Councilman Frank Meledandri wants council to make a decision about supplying water to the borough into the future before the current contract ends.
“I think right now we are open to anything,” he said Tuesday night.
Right now that cost of buying water is folded into a charge of $7 per 1,000 gallons that residents pay, which includes debt service on a previous bond issue for the water treatment plant.
That facility has been out of commission since March 2011 when filtration problems forced officials to close it.
Only Meledandri, president Vicki Roolf and Sherman Kephart were on hand when council discussed the situation at a non-voting meeting on Tuesday.
But they concurred that the borough should move ahead on all fronts regarding the options for securing water service for its residents.
Council agreed with Solicitor Tony Colangelo's suggestion, “if you want to get a ballpark on where you're at,” that council seek proposals from neighboring municipalities to supply water on a long-term basis.
But it won't be just to supply bulk water.
Meledandri said the borough would ask interested water suppliers for proposals on taking over Cheswick's supply system and treatment plant.
That would mean the borough would bow out of the water business for good, but council members are concerned about what might happen to residents' water rates in the future.
“What we want is to come up with a proposal that gives security to the Cheswick residents,” borough Treasurer Tom Cale said.
“What I want in there is something that says, ‘Give me a proposal that makes the Cheswick residents the same as Oakmont customers, the same as the Harmar customers or the Springdale customers,' ” Meledandri said.
Paul Jack, a borough resident and former councilman who was involved in building the water treatment plant, pointed out, “The only sure thing you have is developing your own water plant.”
Renovating the borough's water plant is among the options.
Cale provided a water plant analysis sheet that he claims provides a rough estimate of that cost.
Cale estimated it at $1.042 million. For residents, Cale said that would translate into rate increase of $2.03 to $2.30 per thousand gallons, depending on the lending institution and interest rate.
However, Meledandri thinks that would be too much for residents to pay.
Holding up the sheet, he said that what it reported was enough for him to seek proposals from other water systems.
Jack, who serves on a special committee created by council to address the water issue, said council has to do its due diligence in evaluating all options.
“You need a total line-by-line breakdown of these costs. Otherwise, how do you evaluate them?” Jack said.
Meledandri said he would welcome the opportunity to incorporate Cheswick's water system with those of Harmar, Springdale and Frazer, governed by an authority that would make all the participants equal partners.
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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