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Ligonier Township Municipal Authority expansion is a 'dead project'

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

A plan to expand Ligonier Township Municipal Authority's water system into parts of Ligonier and Fairfield townships is a “dead project,” authority Chairman Glen Kalp said.

Kalp said more details will be discussed at the authority's Feb. 6 meeting, but there simply isn't enough money to complete the project. No formal vote has taken place to discontinue the project.

The plan was intended to expand the system by tapping into the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County's Johnstown-to-Ligonier line to serve about a dozen homes in northern Ligonier Township and southern Fairfield Township. Those homes now rely on wells and springs for water.

Original plans called for the project to be funded with $2.5 million from Penn-VEST, a state program offering low-interest loans. But township supervisors said they would have to charge new customers too much to pay back the loan.

“Unless somebody can come up with some grant money or the Fairfield supervisors want to get in on the (cost), we can't go any further,” Kalp said.

Several residents, along with Fairfield Township supervisors, repeatedly attended Ligonier authority meetings to show support for the plan. Plans seemed to be moving along until two months ago, when the Westmoreland authority announced an across-the-board rate increase, including an increase in bulk water rates.

Kalp said, although the 64 percent rate increase affected the proposed project, it was not the only factor that caused a halt to the plans.

“When it got down to it, it absolutely wasn't a doable project,” Kalp said. “When we looked at the project again, it was way over budget.”

Financial statements show the engineer bills for the planning phase have topped $120,000. Fairfield Township Supervisor Paul Altimus said Fairfield officials have not received official notice from the Ligonier authority that the project will not be completed.

“We've had informal talks with their engineer, Ben Faas, who said he would be putting together a presentation about what happened,” Altimus said.

Altimus said he didn't know who would foot the bill for Faas' presentation, except that it wouldn't be Fairfield Township. A date for that presentation has not been confirmed.

Authority board members John McInchok and John Beaufort, manager Paul Knupp and Faas did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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