BURRELL TOWNSHIP: Residents seek help with water service
June 20, 2013 10:50 AM
by CHAUNCEY ROSS

BLACK LICK — A contingent of Pennview-area residents have asked the Burrell Township board of supervisors for help in restoring reliable water service to their homes.

Jack Lucas led the group, who told the supervisors that the well water supply for their homes in the Palmer Road area has dramatically dwindled over the past couple of years and that the residents have been stymied in their efforts to have the trouble investigated.

Residents contacted several state environmental regulatory offices because deep coal mining, strip mining and gas drilling are taking place in the area, but none have responded, Lucas said.

“Right now, we’re going through a circle of people trying to push it off on each other,” he said.

Supervisor Anthony Distefano advised the residents to document their water problems — writing statements describing the trouble and when the problems began.

“The first thing is to determine what diminished your water supply,” he said.

He also urged them to circulate a petition, gathering signatures of homeowners interested in having municipal water service extended to their area by High Ridge Water Authority.

“If you want public water, we need each household to come forward, put their names on paper and say they want it,” Distefano said.

The residents shared with the supervisors a copy of a letter written to them several months ago by High Ridge Executive Director George Sulkosky, in response to Palmer Road residents’ request for information about solving the water problems.

He said High Ridge earlier had been asked by DEP officials about the cost of extending High Ridge service to their area, in connection with a mine permit application.

“The potential loss of water on Palmer Road must have been expected,” Sulkosky wrote.

Distefano also advised the homeowners to be prepared to pay if High Ridge is to extend the waterlines.

“I’m pretty sure it would be feasible, but I don’t know what it would cost,” he said.

To qualify for government loans and grants to underwrite utility service projects such as waterline extensions, municipalities enact ordinances that require property owners in the service area to hook up to the system and help pay the costs.

A “mandatory tap-in” ordinance now on the books in Burrell Township would require all property owners, even those satisfied with their current water supply, to take part in the project, Distefano said.

In other business:

• The supervisors appointed Mark Olechovski to serve on the Burrell Township Sewer Authority board, filling the seat left vacant by the death of Carl Yarchak.

The term lasts six more months.

• The supervisors also appointed Annette Lucas, of Chestnut Street, to serve a three-year term on the Burrell Township Library board and Stephanie Reeger, of Trolley Street, to serve a five-year term on the township parks board.

• Black Lick Volunteer Fire Company Chief Bryan Palmer told the supervisors that he expects the township’s insurance risk rating to be improved following an audit scheduled on Aug. 5 by ISO.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being best, Burrell Township now is rated a Class 6 community and Blacklick Township is Class 9, Palmer said.

ISO, a national insurance statistics information firm, evaluates local fire departments, water supply systems and 911 dispatching services to set municipal class ratings used by insurance companies to determine homeowner insurance premiums.

Since the last audit in 1998, Palmer said, the Black Lick fire department has made many improvements.

“We purchased an aerial ladder truck, our pumpers have been updated, the water supply system has been updated and new hydrants have been installed,” he said. “We bought new equipment that cost quite a bit of money, but we’re doing this to try to better the fire protection and help the homeowners and business owners … because insurance rates will be lower.”

The latest addition to the fire company fleet is a truck donated by the North Apollo fire company. Palmer said the truck — still painted purple — will be a backup pumper, and will be ready for use in July after the engine is repaired.

Palmer predicted that Burrell Township may be rated as high as Class 3 when the audit is completed.

“It usually takes two to three months to get the results back and … hopefully we’ll have some good news for everybody in the township, and Blacklick Township, and we’ll have better insurance rates,” he said.

• Emergency Management Coordinator Gary Miller asked the supervisors to support and promote the Indiana County SPIN Registry, the Special Needs Information database maintained by the county Emergency Management Agency.

Put in place about a year ago, only about 80 people have signed up for the registry, Miller said.

“People with special needs — those who are wheelchair bound, those who don’t speak English, those who can’t see or hear — and who need assistance in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist incident when we would have to evacuate the area and move them to a shelter, should be on the list,” he said.

The information would only be shared by the county with the local responders when an emergency arises, he said.

SPIN Registry information brochures and data forms are available at the Burrell Township office and online at www.indiana county.org/spin.

• The supervisors enacted a resolution designating the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development to administer community improvement projects funded with the township’s share of block grant funds from the state, and earmarked the 2013 grant for extension of water service to the Fairfield Heights neighborhood.

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