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MAWC to buy Ligonier facility

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, May 4, 2012, 5:16 a.m.

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County on Thursday tendered a formal offer to buy a water and sewer system in Ligonier Borough, a move that could save local residents about $22 a year.

Terms of the proposed deal call for MAWC to pay $5.25 million. The proposal also calls for the authority to reduce water bills to Ligonier customers by 5 percent through 2012 and to freeze sewer rates until the end of 2008.

The authority has long courted Ligonier officials for a potential purchase of their water and sewer systems.

"We've been talking to them over the last several years. They realize this is our final proposal to them," said authority manager Chris Kerr.

Authority board members yesterday unanimously approved making the purchase offer, which includes assuming about $4.3 million of debt and paying nearly $950,000 in cash to the borough.

The proposed deal would transfer about 1,660 water customers and 1,240 sewer system users to the Westmoreland system.

Kerr said the average water customer in Ligonier pays about $408 a year. As part of the proposed purchase, customers in the borough would pay an average of $387 annually for water service for the next six years.

MAWC provides water to nearly 120,000 customers in five counties. In 2000, the authority ventured into the sewer business and has actively sought the acquisitions of more wastewater systems. The Ligonier sewer system purchase would substantially add to MAWC's sewer operations.

So far the authority has purchased just one sewer system, a small system in Avonmore that has about 500 customers.

MAWC officials said they want to finalize the potential Ligonier purchase by Jan. 1.

Borough council acknowledged the MAWC proposal at its regular monthly meeting yesterday evening. Council then scheduled a special information meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday to outline the plan to the public.

"I would like to have a public meeting on this issue to disseminate all this information," council President Dale G. Show said.

Councilman Robert J. Bell then made a motion to seek a professional appraisal of the system before pursuing its sale to MAWC. Bell subsequently withdrew the motion when council members agreed to gauge the public response to the MAWC proposal before considering any other action.

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