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Ford City halts plan to build water plant

| Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 12:21 a.m.

For more than a year, council's discussion over Ford City's proposed new water plant has been like the incessant dripping of a water faucet that never gets fixed.

Plans for the proposed $2.2 million plant have been discussed and drawn up but no final decision had been made on what type of water treatment system to go with — ionic exchange or reverse osmosis — or if the borough should contract with an outside water supplier such as Manor Township or Pennsylvania-American Water company.

On Monday, council decided to halt all progress on the proposed plant.

It voted 3-2 to enter discussions with Pennsylvania-American Water to negotiate for the best low-cost water rate. Councilmen Jerry Miklos, Josh Abernathy and Scott Gaiser voted in favor of the measure with Councilman Gene Banks and Council President Kathy Bartuccio voting no.

The vote passed after council announced it learned that the state Department of Environmental Protection had required that the borough submit a final decision by Feb. 3 or risk being fined for non-compliance.

Ford City Borough Engineer Jim Garvin mistakenly thought the deadline was in March, so the borough has been amassing daily fines of $250 from DEP since Feb. 4.

“The borough is out of time and is getting fined,” Miklos said. “All we're trying to do is stop the bleeding.”

Frustrations spilled over Monday between Miklos and Garvin concerning the fines levied on the borough, with Garvin taking full responsibility and promising to pay the fines out of his own pocket.

He has already paid the DEP $3,250 in fines for failing to submit a feasibility study on time — which he said was sent in December but which DEP claimed it never received.

And Garvin also plans to pay an additional $4,000 fine to the DEP for failing to submit a required written request to Manor Township and Pennsylvania-American for a cost proposal.

“I paid the ($3,250) fine, not as an admission of guilt but to get things moving forward again,” Garvin said after the meeting. He told council during the meeting that he has been frustrated from the lack of communication from DEP representatives in Pittsburgh.

Miklos and Garvin also disagreed on which way the borough should go concerning its water source.

“I've crunched the numbers — I'm looking at it in a non-biased way,” Miklos said. “I can't fathom a better decision than going with a new plant.

“The key problem is water loss,” he said, noting that there is a water loss from leaking lines and valves of between 55 percent and 58 percent.

Garvin said that sinking funds into the existing 90-year-old plant “would've been the biggest waste of money.”

Miklos, who had earlier spoken with representatives from DEP in Pittsburgh, said DEP has not come up with a new deadline if an agreement is not reached between the borough and Pennsylvania-American.

“I'd go with a new plant unless the other options are shown to be more economically viable,” Garvin said.

Marlene Szymanski was among the 20 or so area residents who showed up at the meeting to weigh in on the water plant discussion.

“I don't think this town can afford a big mortgage like that,” she said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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