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Apollo residents' sanitary, stormwater user fee to rise

| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Apollo residents will have to ride out another increase in the borough's sanitary and stormwater user fee.

The quarterly fee could increase by as much as nearly 30 percent, from $28 to $36, because borough officials did not know that a $500,000 low-interest loan for the borough's sewer separation project must be repaid over 20 years.

Officials believed the term on the loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority, commonly known as PennVEST, was 30 years.

Council had increased the fee from $12 to $28 to cover payments on a $1 million loan that was taken out to pay for repairs to the old combined system, now a storm sewer, and costs incurred when other utility lines were damaged during the work.

The bulk of the separation project's cost was paid for with $7 million in state grant funding.

Borough Engineer Rich Craft said a 30-year loan at one time had been discussed, but the borough then believed it would cover the cost entirely with grant money.

When bids came in over the amount of grant funding available, the borough went back to PennVEST for a loan.

And that's when the term changed, he said.

The change will increase the borough's monthly payment on the loan.

Solicitor Chuck Pascal asked how it is that nobody knew the term.

Craft said he was not aware and that those who would be are no longer in office or employed by the borough.

Council President David Heffernan said it's not known when council would act on increasing the fee or when residents would begin receiving higher bills.

“We got to recalculate,” he said. “It's going to go up.”

Another mistake was made as to when the borough was supposed to begin repaying the PennVEST loan, Craft said, but that error was made by PennVEST.

The agency discovered it should have begun billing the borough on the loan in May 2011, but that didn't happen, Craft said.

Rather than paying the missed payments, council chose an available option to delay payments as long as possible. The borough will not have to begin paying on the loan until 2015, Craft said.

That would be a year after Apollo closes out its sewer project, which can't be done until all sewer diversions to the Kiski River are closed.

That can't be done until Kiski Township finishes its own separation project, Craft said.

Flood follow-up

Borough residents hit by flooding in late August complained to council about clogged drains and a creek, Sugar Hollow, filled with silt and debris.

Councilman Darhl Goldinger said the borough will clean drains in the area of North 11th Street and elsewhere and asked residents who know of clogged public drains to report them.

The borough will clean drains on private property, he said.

The borough will contact state and federal officials about what can be done to clear the creek.

Low-interest loans for residents and business owners who sustained damage from flooding between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3 are available from the Small Business Administration.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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