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PENNS MANOR: School officials study sewage, water options

by JULIE E. MARTIN jmartin@indianagazette.net on October 11, 2013 10:49 AM

KENWOOD — District officials are investigating options for sewer and water system upgrades as well as opportunities to help with the costs of such improvements.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, John Emerson, supervising inspector with Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc., of Latrobe, presented two options for each of the systems based on results of a recent feasibility study.

Moving ahead with improvements to both systems was of equal importance, he said. According to officials, both systems are about 50 years old.

“In my estimation, you’d be lucky to get another five years,” Emerson told school directors.

Corrosion and outdated infrastructure cause concern that the systems may be out of compliance with DEP standards in the future, according to Emerson. Falling out of compliance could lead to heavy fines if the problems are not addressed within a year — which can be costly.

“If it takes you $1 million or $10 million, they don’t care,” he said.

The systems currently are in compliance with regulations, officials said.

Based on his study, which he started about two months ago, Emerson suggested the district’s water system be changed from the current well to a waterline.

The proposed waterline would run approximately 2ᄑ miles from the school toward Heilwood along Route 553.

He discussed two options for upgrades to the district’s water system. One focused on Penns Manor owning and maintaining the line.

With the second option, the Indiana County Municipal Services Authority would own and manage the system.

Were the district to own the waterline, Emerson said, the total project cost would be $614,250, with monthly payments totaling $4,746.50 per month for 20 years.

The second option, which would give ICMSA ownership, would total $582,250. The reduction in cost would come from a rebate ICMSA would kick back to the district from a $800 tap-in fee that would be charged to 40 homes tying in to the water line.

Homes built in the future that would tap into the line would result in additional credits, according to Emerson. While monthly payments would cover the costs of construction and service, the user fees could increase in the future.

For the sewer system, two options were also discussed.

The first gives ownership to ICMSA. Those at the municipal authority would convert the district’s current sewage plant into a pumping station.

ICMSA would take a pump line from the school’s pumping station across School Road to the sewage plant in Heilwood. The pump line would only serve the school district and not tie into a residential area.

Retrofitting and bringing the system up to standard so that ICMSA could take it over would cost $923,650. The monthly payment relating to all costs of such a project and the resulting service would total $5,983.

A second option could create a gravity-fed system leading from the Heilwood intersection to 40 homes in the area and a pump line back across School Road to the treatment plant.

That would cost about three times what the first option would, Emerson said. Because of high costs, Emerson indicated, such an option would likely not be considered.

He suggested to the board Penns Manor look into applying for loans and grants. The county, he said, would look at funding both projects with a PENNVEST loan.

In some cases, grants are awarded through the program, too, he said, depending on factors such as low-income areas. Interest on the loans is charged at 1 percent.

“Right now, that 1percent money is pretty hard to beat,” Emerson said.

The next round of PENNVEST applications are due in January or February, he said. If support was given through PENNVEST, the money would be awarded in April. Gibson-Thomas, he said, could start as soon as July 2014 and wrap up the projects in a year.

After the meeting was adjourned, Superintendent Thomas Kakabar described the move as a “proactive” and “creative” one. Citing the potential for new development in the school district, he said that while such projects may cost more upfront, they could pay off in the long run.

“We want to see if it’s feasible for us to do it, if it makes sense,” he said. “We’re always looking at improvements.”

The structures, he said, were built in the mid-1960s.

“All systems like that have a useful lifetime. We’re coming close to (the end) of its usefulness,” he said.

“We’re getting to the point where we have to make some decisions.”

District officials have been considering the possibility of updating or replacing the systems for about a year.

There’s no timeline currently for a decision regarding next steps, according to Kakabar.

He couldn’t say yet whether the cost of upgrades or installation of a new system would impact tax rates.

Among other matters officials addressed at the meeting was the resignation of boys’ head basketball coach Chad Kuzemchak. Kakabar said the resignation was job-related. Kuzemchak works outside of the district.

With the season quickly approaching, Kakabar said, officials would put the search for Kuzemchak’s replacement on the “fast track.”

School board members also approved a leave of absence from January to May for speech and hearing clinician Julie Thomas and granted permission to advertise for a long-term substitute to temporarily fill that role.

Also, Jennifer Kline was hired as a long-term substitute while special education instructor Kristen Kessler is on a leave of absence. Kline will be paid $85 for the first consecutive 20 days of employment and $130 per day thereafter, not exceeding 90 days.

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