The Marion Center area is the chief beneficiary of a $10.77 million grant approved Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority board in Harrisburg.
The PennVEST funding will go to the Indiana County Municipal Services Authority, to extend water service to 1,080 residents of Marion Center with a spur line to cover the SpiritLife Drug Rehabilitation Center in Penn Run.
PennVEST spokesman Brent Sailhamer said it is a 100 percent payment with no match required because an internal evaluation found that the borough meets eligibility criteria, including a median income level that is lower than the state average.
“If they had to pay it back as a loan, it would have raised rates by 220 percent,” Sailhamer said.
It is one of 18 projects in 15 counties that will receive $119 million in grants and loans from PennVEST.
“These projects will continue to ensure that citizens across the commonwealth have access to up-to-date, sound systems that provide clean water for every community,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in announcing the funding.
The announcement came as a surprise to authority Executive Director Martin Maschak, who said his agency’s board will have to take a closer look at the grant, then act on it when it meets Feb. 11.
But Maschak said he talked to agency consultant Gibson Thomas Engineering, which received word of the grant from another client.
Indiana County lawmakers said the ICMSA grant will be significant for the entire community of Marion Center, as well as the Route 85 and 119 corridors.
“Most significantly, this project will bring public water to the Marion Center School District,” state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, a member of the PennVEST board, said in a news release. “Historically, the school district has relied on a private water source that has been less than adequate.”
Sailhamer said it is an antiquated system that has tested positive for lead, copper and bacteria.
“The school system has received numerous notices of violation,” Sailhamer said.
The extended service will reach 432 connections in Marion Center, as well as SpiritLife, a facility 14 miles south of Marion Center.
“We’re pleased to be included in the project,” SpiritLife Executive Director Louis Wagner Jr. said this morning. He applauded the role of retired longtime ICMSA Executive Director Mike Duffalo and Gibson Thomas Project Director John Emerson for their roles in making that connection happen.
Maschak said the money will also fund upgrades to two plants and connect Plumville with Marion Center through Home, and have an emergency interconnect between Plumville and the Crooked Creek service area that will serve as a redundancy.
That interconnect will culminate in Creekside, part of an ICMSA water district that also includes Ernest, Shelocta and all or part of Armstrong, Center, Conemaugh, White and Young townships.
“Public water supplies are important for property values and fire protection and ultimately benefit homeowners by reducing their insurance premiums,” Pittman said. “It will also open up opportunities for economic development in northern Indiana County.”
State Reps. Cris Dush, R-Brookville, and Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, joined Pittman in lauding the PennVEST funding.
“This is a case where PennVEST is stepping up to help the community address a serious public health issue, one that is especially essential since it has a direct impact on the students in the Marion Center Area School District,” Dush said in a statement.
“It is also a crucial function of government to provide the proper core infrastructure systems to encourage new economic development,” Struzzi said in the statement.
Sailhamer said funding for this and other projects originated from a combination of state money approved by voters, Growing Greener, Marcellus Legacy funds, federal grants to PennVEST from the Environmental Protection Agency, and recycled loan repayments from previous PennVEST funding awards.