Some West Pike Run residents finally going to get 'city water'
Erin Sakala had been doing code enforcement on a part-time basis for West Pike Run Township when township officials called her at home on the night of Feb. 8, 2011, and asked her to become the municipality's secretary/treasurer.
Steven Hajdu, a supervisor for more than 30 years who had been serving as secretary/treasurer for tonship, resigned earlier that day after admitting embezzling money from the municipality.
In January 2011, Hajdu pleaded guilty to three counts each of theft, theft by deception, forgery, tampering with records, securing execution of documents and misapplication of entrusted property. According to court records, Hajdu stole more than $95,000 from the township.
He is serving 11 ½ to 23 months in jail, which will be followed by five years of state probation.
Sakala started working for the township the day after she received the call from the township.
“I had to start from scratch,” Sakala said. “I had to start new files. The detectives brought three truckloads of documents from Steve's house.
“So far, everything we've done has worked for us. We are so moving forward and not looking back.”
What Sakala inherited was a township infrastructure lost in a prior century.
Only 40 percent of homes in West Pike Township have access to “city water.” The majority of the residents must haul water frm their cisterns. Some haul water from as far as from Washington, Pa., or West Virginia.
“This township is, unfortunately, living in the stone age,” Sakala said. “Infrastructure never progressed. Grants were never applied for.”
In just under two years, Sakala has applied for and obtained $675,200 in grants for the township.
When Sakala took over her current position, she sent a survey to all residents asking what was most important to them. Infrastructure and roads were the overwhelming top priority.
“With that in mind, we came up with capital improvement plan for all of our roads and sought LSA grants for this water line project, and we will continue to do so,” Sakala said. “The fact that 60 percent our residents don't have water service is crazy.”
But West Pike Run Township is about to change that.
Beginning this spring, phase I of a water line extension project will commence. It will extend water lines roughly one mile, from the 300 block of Whitehall Road to Birch Road. That will provide water service for 28 residents by September.
The project is being funded by the following grants: a Local Share Account, $328,000; Pennsylvania American Water, $125,000; Range Resources, $30,000; Community Development Block Grant, $60,000; and Dirt and Gravel Program, $38,000. In addition, $87,000 in restitution from Hajdu is also funding the project.
Phase 2 will extend waterlines to the township building, a late 19th century building with no water service.
Currently, Supervisor Phil Podroskey brings bottled water bottled from his spring to the township for use there.
As a part of phase II of the project, water stations will be created for residents who currently have to haul water to their homes.
In a few years, the water line extension project will extend across Route 481 to Woodland Road, serving many of the township residents who presently do not have water service to their homes.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 744-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.