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Sewickley Water Authority eyes three projects this year

Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Sewickley Water Authority officials will spend $900,000 on three line replacement projects, are exploring other system upgrades and say rates won't increase this year, officials said.

The largest of the three projects includes work to a stretch of Centennial Avenue between Nevin Avenue and Blackburn Road, Director Brian Hohman said.

Work is expected to begin in late March or early April and be completed in a couple of months, he said.

Work on about 1,200 feet of line along Ferry Street is slated to begin in the first quarter of the year, he said. Additional work is planned in the summer along a portion of Route 65.

“These are the lines, in most cases, that are old,” Hohman said. “They're past their life cycle and we need to get them replaced.”

The authority — which serves all residents in Sewickley, Glen Osborne and Haysville; most residents in Sewickley Heights and portions of Aleppo and Edgeworth — has spent more than $2 million since 2011 upgrading aging water lines across the organization's coverage area, Hohman said.

Since then, improvements have been made to lines along Scaife Road, Blackburn Road, Backbone Road, Persimmon Road in Sewickley Heights; near the Sewickley Heights Borough Park; Nevin Avenue in Sewickley; and Center Street in Haysville.

Less than 5 percent of the system is part of original lines placed in the late 1800s, Hohman said.

Significant updates have been made since the 1950s and in every decade since then, he said.

Lifespan for new lines can range from 80 to 100 years.

In addition to the replacement projects, leaders say they are exploring upgrades to billing services and mapping.

As leaders work to offer upgrades, they also are cutting expenses.

“We really have looked at each area of the business operation and said, ‘How do we become the most efficient in those operations,'” authority board member Brian Turk said. “Then we can try to control the rates and not only control them, but have rates that allow us to upgrade an aging infrastructure.

“It allows us to invest back into the system.”

An average residential customer water bill is $57.48, based on a 58-inch metered connection using 5,000 gallons per month, Hohman said.

Part of the challenge water authority leaders face is having a system built mostly on residential customers, he said.

“The majority of our customer base is residential, so we're not like a growing area like a Cranberry or Robinson that have a lot of industry or big commercial enterprise that can … keep the residential rates low,” Hohman said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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