FRYBURG - The Washington Township Municipal Sewer Authority's Feb. 13 meeting saw discussions once again regarding the township's proposed sewerage service line extension project.
In particular, the matter of how the project will be funded was the chief interest broached by township resident Bill Aaron.
"You said at the January meeting that on Jan. 29 you would have the Pennvest funding (offer)," Aaron said to the township's board of supervisors. "I was wondering how much grant money we got."
Township board of supervisors chairman Mark Beichner said as of the latest Pennvest funding round, no municipalities in Western Pennsylvania, including Washington Township, were approved for wastewater project funding.
"I'm not sure what the actual issues are, but (the extension project) was already resubmitted back into April," said Beichner. "(Pennvest) pretty much said they'll have something out to us in the April funding round."
A Jan. 29 Pennvest press release mentioned by Aaron indicates 10 wastewater projects in Pennsylvania were approved for some sort of combination of grant/loan funding.
The ten projects' funding amounts collectively total $27,087,617.
Of the total figure, $23,540,349 is in the form of loans, accounting for roughly 87 percent of the total funding amount of all the projects.
Only Lower Yoder Township in Cambria County and Londonderry Township in Dauphin County received grant money as part of their respective funding for projects, altogether adding up to $3,547,268.
"I guess my question is how are we going to get a grant to pay for our sewer system when there's only 13 percent of the money allocated that was in the form of grants," said Aaron. "I think that's a pipe dream to think we're going to get any grant money."
Aaron added data from prior years showed similar figures when it comes to the proportion between grants and loans in total Pennvest funding offers.
"You're going to get between 10 and 15 percent of it in grant money and you guys are thinking our $2,000,000-plus project is going to get grant money?" Aaron said, adding funding of projects in York County ($6,807,942) and Erie County ($7,250,000) did not receive any grants.
Beichner said he had also read the press release a couple of days after its publication.
"I was personally appalled that the grant to loan ratio was as poor as it was," Beichner said. "There were several of them that were all loans and I'm very surprised that they even threw that out there."
Township secretary Jacqui Blose said a part of the determination in Pennvest funding offers can come down to the financial stability of a particular municipality, and its own ability to pay for a project is rated accordingly.
The EADS Group project manager Kyle Schwabenbauer also noted Pennvest views municipality's current rates when establishing a funding offer.
"Until we get some kind of offer, we can't just take a guess on what they might send," Schwabenbauer said.
According to Beichner, township officials will make a decision once an offer is made and move forward from there.
Township resident Kevin McCauley then asked what criteria the authority had in place when deciding whether to accept or reject a future funding offer.
"If we can't stay within where the rest of the community is on this extension, I'm not going to vote for it," answered supervisor Eric Bauer. "That's where we're at. It depends on what the monthly figure is going to be."
An extension project fact sheet provided by township officials in November states the township's future sewer rate is dependent on an eventually received Pennvest funding offer.
The November fact sheet also states the current sewer rate consists of a $70 base rate, plus $15 per every 1,000 gallons of water used. For a family of four using roughly 3,000 gallons of water in a month, the total rate could conceivably amount to $115 per month.
"The authority is not planning to substantially raise rates for current or future customers," the sheet reads. "If a favorable funding offer is not received from Pennvest, the offer may be rejected and the project resubmitted until a more affordable rate can be obtained."
Bauer disputed McCauley's claim from a previous meeting that some residents base rates have reached anywhere from $200 to $300 a month.
"For $200 a month, that's 6,000 or 7,000 gallons," said Bauer. "A normal residential house uses 3,000 gallons per month."
Blose noted she had analyzed duplicates of sewerage bills from the previous month, showing the vast majority of residents were paying for between 2,000 and 3,000 gallons per month.
"There were exactly two bills in the $300 range in the whole community," Blose said, adding one of the bills includes four apartments and three total bills in the $200 and $300 range come from businesses within the township.
"We can't even justify a $100 bill for sewage," answered McCauley.
The board of supervisors' next primary meeting will take place at 7 p.m. March 12 at the township fire hall, with the municipal sewer authority meeting immediately following.