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New Kensington water authority awards $5.7M contract that will extend lines

| Friday, May 2, 2014, 1:56 a.m.

More than two months into tweaking costs and reconsidering the scope of work, the New Kensington water authority on Thursday agreed to move forward with a waterline project.

The board awarded a $5.7 million contract to low bidder S&E Utility Contracting Inc. of Harrison City to extend waterlines to about 50 homes in Allegheny Township and to replace 7 miles of existing pipe in Arnold, Lower Burrell and New Kensington.

Even that low bid exceeded the budget, leading to a nearly 70 percent increase in costs to the Allegheny Township residents who would be tapping into the lines along Melwood, White Cloud and Smail roads.

Authority engineer Ed Schmitt of Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. had suggested removing Martin and Sixth avenues in New Kensington from the replacement project to further reduce the cost by about $600,000.

However, Schmitt on Thursday said he's since talked to state officials who indicated the benefits of replacing the old cast iron lines with more environmentally friendly plastic pipe and improving firefighting capability factored into the authority receiving a low-interest state loan to finance the project.

Removing the two roads likely will mean losing the funding.

Instead, Schmitt offered a reconfigured project budget that reduces the contingency fund and inspection costs and removes interest fees during construction from the project budget. Schmitt said they hope to find additional savings during construction to balance out the budget and prevent the authority from having to contribute additional money.

In addition to the waterline project, the authority awarded contracts to Cambria Systems of Sidman for $388,000 to upgrade filter controls at the H. Burns Smith water treatment plant in New Kensington and to Ligonier Construction Co. of Laughlintown for $94,000 to clear rights of way.

The three projects total about $6.7 million, which is the amount of the 20-year loan approved by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority board (PennVEST).

Water authority manager Jim Matta has said the authority's 15,000 customers in Allegheny Township, Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington, Plum, Upper Burrell and Washington Township won't see rates increase to pay off the debt.

The average customer pays about $76 per quarter for water service.

The new Allegheny Township customers will pay about $11,500 per house, or about $173 per quarter, for 20 years plus a one-time $2,350 tap-in fee and the water usage fees.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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