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Residents to press Salem on water line

| Friday, May 11, 2012, 1:12 a.m.

Some residents of Salem Township's Fairview housing plan would like to have water piped to their homes.

Nearby Allegheny Paper Shredders Corp., which employs 53 people, wants a municipal water line, too.

Residents and company representatives say they plan to make their wishes known when township supervisors hold their next meeting, on Oct. 16.

Supervisors Andy Johnson and Ron Martz voted last month not to apply for Community Development Block Grant funds that could have been used to extend municipal water lines to Fairview, where residents now rely on well water.

The township studied three possible routes for extending water lines to the neighborhood. The least costly started on Route 22 at the Five Points intersection, ran west along Old Route 22, crossed Route 22 then continued east along Old Route 22 to Oak Hill Road.

The estimated cost for 6,770 feet of 12-inch water line was $381,000.

"I don't want to burn up the entire budget for the next three years," Martz said, explaining his decision to oppose the grant application. The water line "would have serviced Allegheny Paper and a few residents on Route 22, and we would have had no money for the next three years. I'm looking at other options to get water into Fairview in the future."

Supervisors disagree on the number of household the line might serve. Supervisor Ed Gieselman said the extension likely would serve 50 to 60 families, with 10 to 15 more homes along the route. But Martz said only about half a dozen households would be served, and Johnson agreed that only a few homes would be affected by the extension.

Larry Mason has lived in the Fairview plan since 1956. He said he does not have any septic or water problems, but he knows people who do.

"The area is constantly growing," Mason said. "I have some neighbors who do have water problems. For their benefit and for mine in the long run, I support (the extension). It increases property value in this community and the township. They're going to have to have water if they're going to grow."

CDBG money is allotted to a community in three-year cycles. Bert Getto, Westmoreland County's local government coordinator of the grants, said Salem was allotted $169,800 for the 2000-02 cycle and $156,372 in 2003-05. Funds may be carried over from one cycle to the next.

About $49,000 of the 2000-02 funding has been be used to extend a water line down Kennan Drive. That line carries water to one property in a developed area with 15 to 20 houses.

In a letter to the township, Getto said the Fairview route is at least 70 percent residential, meeting one of the guidelines for a Community Development Block Grant.

Grant guidelines also require an income survey of the area. The total number of households that might use the water line must be identified and survey responses obtained from at least 80 percent of those households. At least 51 percent of the respondents must be identified as "low-income" before the grant can be approved.

"I know it will qualify," said Gieselman, who last month cast the only vote in favor of applying for the funding and going ahead with the income survey. "We need this water really bad. They've asked for water for a long time, and this gets it right into the heart of their whole housing area."

Deadline for the grant application is Oct. 31.

"We're not going to give up," Gieselman added. "Even though they shot the grant down, we're going to give it another try."

John Wagner, president and CEO of Allegheny Paper Shredders, said he too would like to see a municipal water line reach Fairview. His firm has been located at Route 22 and Old William Penn Highway for the last 27 years.

After last month's negative vote, Wagner wrote to the township supervisors, expressing his dismay.

"It surprises me that you will not expand the water lines or provide sewage (treatment) to your tax-paying citizens and businesses, so that your township can grow and flourish," the letter read. "I would think that Salem Township would welcome business expansion in the township and the hiring of its tax-paying citizens."

In a prior interview, Wagner said that if he can't expand at the firm's current site, he might have to look into expansion at another location.

"What I don't understand is why they don't want to grow," Wagner said during that interview. "It doesn't make any sense. (Supervisors) have too many interests that are affecting their decisions. The last thing I'm going to do is turn business away because we can't expand. "

Wagner said he plans to "get a lot of people together" to attend the Oct. 16 meeting.

Ernest Jackson, president of the Fairview Park Association, also plans to attend. The group is working toward building a conference center, with overnight accommodations, on 52 acres in Fairview.

"You're not going to attract any builder out there when all you have is well water," Jackson said. "Something that large of a scale is not done without city water. What we're looking to do is something we think can have a positive impact on the community."

Paul Henderson, a Fairview resident for 31 years, said the route that was deemed least expensive would not bring municipal water to his property, but he still would like to see a line extended to the area.

"I don't know where the conflict is," he said. "Whatever way they can, (supervisors) need to do something. People are perturbed with what's going on in this township."

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