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Collier 10-year plan gets boost from CMU

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Part of Collier Township's recently adopted 10-year plan involves enriching the township's existing systems, and township officials got a helping hand in planning for that from a group of Carnegie Mellon University students.

Matthew Mehalik, an assistant professor of environmental policy at Carnegie Mellon, tasked his students with completing sustainable-needs studies on various communities throughout the area. The students who studied Collier focused on energy-efficient street lighting and yard-waste management programs.

“I was very pleased at the presentation of the study,” Collier manager Sal Sirabella said. “Commissioner [Robert] Schuler and I were impressed with the understanding of the issue and the analytical work done on the cost side.”

The students looked at the feasibility of the programs, the time frame in which they would be implemented, and the potential cost and return. They also completed a cost-benefit analysis.

“As a result of the analysis, we may very well move forward on the next parts necessary to put these into action,” Sirabella said.

The group looked at what it would cost to replace Collier's 500 street lights with LED streetlights. The initial cost to the township would be about $218,000, the students said, and that included the cost of materials and labor to replace the lights.

The group's analysis put the annual savings to the township at nearly $59,000 After just under four years, the township would have recouped the initial investment.

Sirabella said the study gives township officials the information they need to continue moving forward.

“What we're now ready to do with the LED lights is take that study and go to Duquesne Light and discuss the process to transfer the lights to LED,” he said. “From there, we'll take that study and use it as a narrative to apply for grants.”

The other program the group analyzed was a yard-waste-management program. The township currently takes its yard waste to a facility in Bridgeville, where it must pay for every load and then pay again for the finished mulch.

“We pay to take yard waste to the facility and pay to take it out to use in our own mulching,” Sirabella said. “So it's inefficient in that respect.”

The sustainability study suggested that, in order to save money and become self-sufficient in the waste management process, township officials purchase the necessary equipment and start their own yard-waste management facility.

While the initial cost of starting the program with all of the proper equipment came to around $385,000, the estimated annual revenue was $339,658 with an annual operating cost of $192,500.

Sirabella said both projects are a matter of grants.

“It'll depend on grants,” he said. “We need to show the grantors that we have a plan, and the sustainability study is the basis of our plan that we can build on.”

He said, however, that both projects are do-able for the township.

“These are major, multiyear projects,” he said. “With what we have started now, I would consider that in the next three to four years, we could accomplish both tasks. It will be a matter of grants and Collier tax dollars used for matching.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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