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Washington Twp. may sell its water company

| Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has voiced an interest in buying the township's water company.

John Yetsconish, chairman of the township's board of supervisors, passed on a letter from the county authority to the township's municipal authority at its meeting Tuesday.

In the letter, the county authority requested that Yetsconish provide financial and personnel information and descriptions of the township's water and sewerage systems.

Yetsconish asked the township's board to forward the information to the county.

The board tabled action on the issue after Supervisor Chuck Yusko said he had not been informed about the county's letter.

Yetsconish endorsed at least looking into selling the authority, saying said the county would provide water service to all township residents and would ensure that the system had the capacity to accommodate future growth.

The township municipal authority has been working on an estimated $4.5 million plan to expand its water service to a small portion of township residents without service and to Long Branch Borough.

Board engineer Dave Kerchner said last night that the plan does not address future growth.

In an unrelated matter, Kerchner said the schedule for a proposed $18 million sanitary sewer project has been pushed back about three months.

Kerchner said he recently learned that the township missed the deadline for the recent round of funding through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, a state agency that provides grants and low-interest loans for municipal and waste water projects.

The township is working on a joint project with Belle Vernon Borough, which is also installing a new system and will provide use of its treatment plant to the township.

Kerchner said Belle Vernon recently learned it did not have one of the required permits to expand the plant.

Because funding will now take longer to secure, the tentative date for construction will be pushed back to 2008, Kerchner said.

Construction is expected to take about 12 months.

The board will apply for the maximum $11 million loan through PennVEST.

It is searching for state and federal grants to cover the remaining cost in an effort to avoid charging residents tap-in fees.

The township will pay about $1.9 million for expansion at the treatment plant.

In other business, Kerchner said the authority's plant operations will be fully automated by the end of the year.

Kerchner said the $350,000 involves installation of a computerized system that can monitor or control the treatment plant, pump stations, tanks and reservoirs.

The plant employees currently use an outdated and limited computer system, Kerchner said.

He said the new system would cut overtime and improve water treatment procedures and response time concerning water line breaks.

Kerchner said the system will satisfy requirements made by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The municipal authority is paying for the project out of its capital fund.

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