New Castle News

April 2, 2014

Shenango agrees to sell sewer system

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Shenango supervisors unanimously agreed to sell the township sewer system.

Russell Riley, Bill Albertini and Al Burick III accepted the New Castle Sanitation Authority’s offer of $1.85 million on Monday. They said the price had been deemed acceptable by RDM Inc. of Pittsburgh, the township’s accounting firm.

Riley said the deciding factor was knowing the sewers will have to be extended to the township’s Castlewood area at a cost of $15 million for 900 customers.

“They can bring it quicker,” Riley said of the authority. He added the township might take another 10 years to obtain funding. But the sanitation authority, he said “will take it and run with it.”

The township has not been mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to replace the sewers, which currently serve 1,500 customers.

But Greg DelPrincipe of RAR Engineering said after the meeting that 184 field surveys showed a 69 percent confirmed septic failure rate in that area.

Brian Tanner, township secretary/treasurer, said Shenango has been unable to obtain funding largely because the state wants to give money to extensions that will spur economic development and provide jobs. Castlewood is primarily residential.

“Our ranking was extremely low. We were not eligible for funding,” Tanner said. “Basically, that’s where we are.”

Riley said the sanitation authority has more clout because it is a larger system and has a better chance for grants or obtaining lower interest loans to build the sewer.

The meeting drew only about 15 residents, but several of them were vocal in their opposition to the sale.

Roberta Filer, who is on the committee formulating the township comprehensive plan, said she fears for the future of the township with the sale of its sewer infrastructure.

She said township officials have known for years that Castlewood needs sewers.

“This should have been planned for a long time ago,” Filer said, noting money should have been set aside for the project.

Filer also said she is disappointed in the poor turnout of residents on such an important issue. She warned the supervisors that the sewer sale “will be your legacy.”

Several other residents expressed concern that the sanitation authority has little incentive to upgrade the township’s system, and also questioned the wisdom of giving up annual profit of about $140,000 from the system.

DelPrincipe said Tuesday the township’s 537 plan obligates whoever owns the system to pursue the sewer extension.

Township officials were quick to point out they do not get $140,000 every year; some years the profit is as little as $70,000. Riley said repairs eat into the annual profit, such as a recent sewer blockage at the school complex. He said the township’s six lift stations are costly to repair and one recently ran $50,000.

The supervisors said they have been considering whether to sell since last April.

Riley said he initially was against the sale but is convinced the authority is better able to extend the sewers than the township.

Solicitor Lou Perrotta said the supervisors did their “due diligence” adding “I’ve had numerous conversations with everyone at this table on the pros and cons.”

The supervisors said the system will be in a transitional state for one year, during which time the township’s one sewer billing employee will be retained and paid by the sanitation authority.

Earlier this year, Union Township agreed to sell its 2,000-customer sewer system to the sanitation authority for $2.29 million.

Neshannock Township recently declined to sell its system.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)