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Ford City Council explores replacing water treatment plant

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 3:42 p.m.

FORD CITY — Ford City officials believe only one option remains to save the failing water system: replace the borough's century-old water treatment plant.

During a special meeting on Monday evening, borough council authorized solicitor Frank Wolfe to begin gathering the necessary information to obtain a loan for the project. Recently hired engineer James Garvin estimates the plant will cost $1.1 million.

Council President Lou Vergari explained that the borough's previous plan to bring the existing plant into compliance with the Department of Environmental Protection had to be changed in November when the state informed the borough that a $467,000 grant obtained two years ago could no longer go toward salvaging the existing facility.

“We got a grant two years ago and tried to use it to rehab the old plant, but the DEP said no,” Vergari said. “They didn't give us a choice.”

Vergari said borough officials spoke with representatives from Manor Township about possibly sharing resources, but that arrangement could cost about $500,000 just to hook up. He said Ford City considered working with Pennsylvania American Water — the company Kittanning uses — but, ultimately, new construction would be the most cost-efficient approach.

“I think the best way to go would be to build our own water plant,” said Vergari. “(We can) control our own costs and continue to have that (income).”

Vergari said the borough's previous engineer, Gregory F. Scott of Buchart Horn Inc., had already spent about $130,000 of the grant money when the DEP announced its decision, leaving about $337,000 to go towards detecting leaks in the water system. Scott was dismissed when the original project could no longer be completed and council replaced him late last month with Garvin of Garvin Engineering & Municipal Management. Garvin said he's already made progress in gathering project costs for a new building and obtaining a loan to finance it.

“I met with S&T Bank to discuss the option of borrowing this money for the new facility,” he said. “They were very pleased to work with us and I believe they're in the process of drafting a commitment.”

Garvin said the bank provided two possible loan rates: a five-year option at 2.54 percent interest and 10-year option at 3.34 percent. Using those figures, Garvin arrived at a loan cost of about $112,000 — which could result in a $5.84 increase to residents' monthly water bill.

Garvin stressed that planning for a new water treatment plant is in the preliminary stages and that an official decision about it will have to be discussed and approved by council.

Several members said they think a new facility would be a boon to the borough.

“I'm very excited about this water project,” Councilman Eugene Banks said. “I believe the people of Ford City need to see something tangible happen in this town and that would be a nice project to see that Ford City is moving forward.”

In other matters:

• Council accepted the resignation of part-time police Officer Christopher L. Fox. Mayor Marc Mantini said continued turnover in the position should be expected. “This is the problem we have,” he said. “We have to keep this pipeline of part-time officers going to save the taxpayers on police protection.”

• Garvin opened sealed bids for a project to replace the T12 lighting at the Ford City Public Library with more efficient T8 fluorescent lighting. Slippery Rock-based Current Waves submitted the lowest of four bids at $20,429. Garvin will review the submissions and make a recommendation during the next council meeting on March 11.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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