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Tap-in fee assistance available

| Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - The township municipal authority board Tuesday authorized borrowing up to $4 million to help customers reduce tap-in fees linked to the construction of a storm water and waste water system.

For the past several months, the board discussed taking out a loan to help customers afford the considerable up-front cost of connecting to the system.

At its regular meeting, the board approved a 30-year, $3 million loan from PNC Bank that carries a 4.35 percent interest rate.

The monthly loan payments will be $18,737.

The board also approved a $1 million line of credit from PNC Bank that can be used to further cut tap-in fees.

That money will be available for 30 months with a 3-percent interest rate.

At its meeting last month, board members said they hoped to cut the tap-in fees from $3,200 to $1,450 by borrowing money.

Chairwoman Dee Fisher said last night that the exact amount the fees would be reduced is undetermined.

Cutting the tap-in fees will mean customers' monthly service rates will have to be increased, however.

Board engineer Dave Kerchner said the estimated cost for the project is $20 million.

Fisher said the board will meet with state Rep. Peter J. Daley on July 24 to request grant money for the project.

The board announced that a 25-percent water rate increase has been delayed until Tuesday.

Last month, board members said the increase would take effect June 1.

Fisher said computer system problems forced the delay.

The cost per quarter will increase $5 per month, pushing the quarterly rate to $60 to $75 on average.

The board approved the increase in reaction to a drop in water usage at Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel's Allenport plant.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. announced last year that it was considering a "realignment" of its steelmaking operations that could close or severely reduce operations at its Allenport finishing plant in Washington County. It has since announced plans to close the facility.

The plant accounts for one-third of the authority's revenue.

The board is monitoring water consumption at the plant on a monthly basis and will adjust water rates if more or less water is used at the business.

In an unrelated matter, the board provided documentation of a $3,000 expense board members have claimed they did not authorize.

For the past several months, board members have said they were unaware of $3,000 paid to a New Jersey Company to sweep the authority's office for hidden recording devices.

Last night, the board provided copies of correspondence sent from Edwin Steinmetz Associates, of Mickleton, N.J., to former authority office manager Judy Arrow about the sweep.

The mailing, received Aug. 28, 2006, shows Arrow as the recipient.

She is listed as the debugging company's contact.

Arrow and former office clerk Laura Snyder have been accused of misappropriating thousands of dollars in cash paid by customers and paying themselves more than $100,000 in unauthorized overtime while on the job.

The board has contacted Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon and state police about the allegations.

The board announced the resignation of office clerk Denise Yawn.

Fisher said Yawn quit her job late last month after her hours were reduced from 40 to 20 hours per week as a cost-cutting measure.

The board agreed to donate $100 per month to the township that will help pay for repairs to the community social hall.

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