Former railroad property eyed as site for sewage treatment plant
By Jodi Weigand
Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A slice of former railroad property is gaining favor as the site for Summit's proposed sewage treatment facility.
The plant would treat sewage for about 500 homes and businesses in the village of Herman.
The township is working with Buffalo Township, which appears to own the land near Loco Lane, a private drive off Herman Road.
The 10-acre tract was used as a turnaround for locomotive engines on the rail line that is now the Butler-Freeport Community Trail.
“They asked us about it, and we're debating whether we want to keep that piece of property,” said Buffalo Township Supervisor John Haven.
Haven said Buffalo Township just finished clearing trees and brush from the land for possible use as a recreational area.
“We'd rather it not be a sewage plant if they can go across the road.”
The other plant site being considered for the plant is across Herman Road at the former Summit baseball fields on land owned by Robert “Beau” Sechan.
“The railroad piece is the better of the two in terms of flood-plain issues,” said Rich Craft, project engineer with Olsen & Associates of Butler, the township's engineer.
“Coal Run goes through the (Sechan) area, and there is a FEMA-defined flood plain through the property. That's one less unknown we would have.”
He said construction costs for both sites would be about the same, despite the uneven terrain on the railroad site.
“It's not level, it's not the perfect location,” said Summit Supervisor Willie Adams.
“But with some excavating, it could be made into a site.”
The township has been negotiating with Sechan on an exclusive option to purchase the ball field property and conduct state-required environmental testing.
Sechan or his attorney typically takes several weeks to respond to township inquiries, Summit Supervisor Larry Osche told Buffalo Township's supervisors in April.
“I'm not sure what his plans were for it, but he doesn't seem to be interested in selling it,” Adams said.
Sechan said that's not necessarily the case.
“I don't have to sell it, but if the price is right I might dispose of some of it,” said Sechan, who lives in Florida, but still operates a business in Pennsylvania.
He said he doesn't have a problem with a sewage plant being located near property he'd still own.
“I think we'll probably be able to work out something,” he said.
“My attorneys handle most of the sales stuff.”
In 2004, the state Department of Environmental Protection found failing septic systems in the Herman area and mandated that Summit find a solution.
Summit is approaching a 60-day deadline to provide an update.
“It's routine, but DEP wants to see action,” said Summit Solicitor Michael Gallagher.
Summit officials have consulted with the Municipal Authority of Buffalo Township, the Saxonburg Area Authority and Butler Area Sewer Authority.
Summit abandoned a plan to run a sewage line through Jefferson to the Saxonburg Area Authority after Jefferson residents objected, and it decided to build its own treatment plant.
“We run into obstacles with every other plan,” Adams said.
Buffalo and Summit townships are scheduled to meet at the former rail site soon.
Although Buffalo claims the property, Gallagher is searching old deeds to determine who owns the land to avoid any problems if a sale proceeds.
It's unclear if Conrail owns the land because the parcel was conveyed to Buffalo Township via a ‘quitclaim' deed, Gallagher said.
A quitclaim is not a guarantee that Buffalo Township has clear title to the property because the entity conveying the property relinquishes the rights and not the title.
Butler County property records list Pennsylvania Railroad Co. as the owner, but Haven said Buffalo Township holds the deed.
“We purchased all the property that Penn Central had, and that was part of it,” Haven said.
Buffalo Township owns the 20-mile rails-to-trails, which runs from Freeport to the City of Butler.
The rail line ultimately was operated by Penn Central Corp., formerly Pennsylvania Railroad, which went bankrupt in the 1970s.
Its assets were split between Amtrak and Conrail.
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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