Murrysville council back a $12 million bond issue by the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority as the authority addresses a host of issues with its system and its new chairman said customers can expect another rate hike further down the road.
“We know that we’ve got way more than $10 million of things to fix,” said newly installed FTMSA chair Jim Rumbaugh of the bond. FTMSA plans to use $10 million, but the authority’s bond counsel said the $12 million figure provides more flexibility in underwriting the bond.
The authority last week signed a $1.2 million contract that will go toward fully mapping the system, and Rumbaugh said he expects to enter into a $1.2 million contract shortly to install a host of flow monitors throughout the system.
“This $10 million is a start,” Rumbaugh said, adding that FTMSA recently received a confidential correction action plan from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, aimed at addressing systemwide issues like those of Bill Ott, who has borne the brunt of overflows for more than 15 years.
Ott has appeared before council three times since 2015 to try and resolve persistent flooding issues for his properties along Tarr Hollow Road.
Murrysville council President Josh Lorenz said the FTMSA board, which as of January includes Rumbaugh and two other new members, has been much more communicative than previous boards.
“I can say that the people we’ve appointed, we have a lot of faith and confidence that they recognize and appreciate the situation, and are committed to doing what it takes to rectify things,” Lorenz said.
FTMSA is charged with overseeing and maintaining more than 330 miles of sanitary pipe. Officials have identified a number of issues with the system over the years, from pump-station overflows during wet weather to storm water inflow and infiltration and old, damaged pipelines.
Resident Gary English, who recently moved to Murrysville from Penn Hills, said he was disappointed to find that that FTMSA had hiked rates 35 percent in 2019 without seeking any state or federal grants to help fund new projects. Rumbaugh said he was happy to begin seeking grants, but added that FTMSA would be pursuing the bond issue with or without the municipality’s backing.
“I think you should demand more accountability from FTMSA before you even consider backing this bond,” English said.
With Murrysville as a guarantor, a more favorable bond rating would save ratepayers up to $400,000, according to Rumbaugh and Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison.
“If we don’t guarantee this, what we are guaranteeing is that the ratepayers of this community will be paying an additional, possibly, $400,000,” Lorenz said. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Council voted 6-0 to back the bond issue; Councilwoman Jamie Lee-Korns was not present.