burrell township bldg sign

BLACK LICK — A $10.1 million project to modernize the Route 119 sewage treatment plant serving the Josephine and Black Lick area is nearing completion, with the transfer of wastewater purification from the old to the new tanks expected to start this month.

The new tanks should be fully online by April 1, officials said.

The new sewage authority office is “substantially complete” but won’t be opened to the public on a full Monday-through-Friday schedule until later in the spring, “when we’re out of the mud,” board member David Semsick told the supervisors.

And for homeowners served by the plant, January is bringing an increase in sewage bills from $35 to about $42 a month — a figure that board member David Henry was fast to point out Wednesday as being the same as the rates that other township residents have already been paying for sewage service on separate systems. It is still well below “monthly costs of $65 to $80 which have been seen in similar local sanitary sewer construction projects in this area,” Semsick said.

“PennVEST can’t believe how cheap our rates are,” he told the supervisors.

Semsick read into the record at the supervisors’ monthly business meeting a letter sent by the Burrell Township Sewer Authority to notify customers of the status of the project. The reading lent formality to a question-and-answer session held by Semsick and Henry with the supervisors and other spectators.

The project has been funded by a grant of $3.7 million and a 1 percent interest loan of $6.5 million. The authority will make monthly payments of $20,763.64 for 30 years.

The project could have been done “on the cheap,” for maybe $5 million to $6 million, Semsick said. But the authority opted to meet the stricter standards that already are in place for sewage systems in central and eastern Pennsylvania and are expected to be imposed a few years from now in western Pennsylvania. He said the higher cost to meet future requirements is less than what the authority would expect to pay later when they are imposed.

The plant is designed to meet needs of local residents and government regulators for at least 45 years and allows room for expansion.

The storage and treatment tanks have been built about seven feet in elevation over the tanks in operation the past few decades. They’re designed to withstand infiltration by a “500-year” flood, Semsick said.

Answering a resident’s question about the capacity of wastewater the plant is capable of treating, Semsick said the volume won’t matter as much as the quality of the water at the point where it’s discharged into Blacklick Creek.

“Every plant has a limit, but we won’t be close to it,” he said.

The authority’s mailing address and telephone number will remain the same. For years, the sewer authority shared office space with the township library in a building that was condemned following flooding from a broken water pipe in January 2018. The authority moved its office two years ago to the Corporate Campus industrial park.

In other business Wednesday, the supervisors:

• Hired Sean Carnahan, the only applicant for the job, as a part-time code enforcement officer at $14 an hour.

• Told township residents that it’s not known whether the new majority on the Indiana County board of commissioners — Republicans Mike Keith and Robin Gorman — might agree with the supervisors’ opposition to the planned construction of a pedestrian bridge over Route 119 west of Blairsville.

After the township supervisors twice rejected the county’s application for a construction permit, the commissioners filed an appeal in Indiana County Common Pleas Court. The appeal is not likely to go to a hearing in court before March.

• Voted to again grant a schedule of 14 paid holidays, 20 paid vacation days and their birthday as a day off for township employees this year. The supervisors also agreed to award an across-the-board pay raise of 3 percent to all township workers.

• Were told that the township library, in its interim makeshift home sharing the supervisors’ public meeting room, expanded its weekly operating schedule this month to include Mondays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

And while the township office will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, the library itself will be open to patrons.

The library board’s capital campaign has reached $11,000 toward the construction of the new combination library/municipal office center on Main Street, the supervisors were told.

• Told residents that the township office has a copy of a petition that requests the designation of Indiana County as a “Second Amendment sanctuary county” by the board of commissioners.

“They need 5,000 signatures and plan to present it to the commissioners,” supervisor Dan Shacreaw said. “They’re going to plan a march or a rally at the courthouse some day. Look for that, it will be happening.

“I don’t think we’ll have pushback from Mike Keith and Robin Gorman as commissioners, they ran as conservatives, so I don’t think it will be much of an issue for them.”

• Received a report of activity by the Black Lick Volunteer Fire Company in 2019.

The department responded to 211 calls from the county 911 center, including 119 alarms in Burrell Township, that kept the department in service for 1,495 hours.

The figure didn’t include calls only for officers or dispatches for “water/flooding and other weather-related issues,” according to the report submitted by fire company secretary William McKee.

The call-outs included 31 traffic accidents, nine structure fires and 18 “utility-related events.” The volunteers logged more than 2,000 man-hours in training, according to the report. Shacreaw, a member of the fire department, said that included 1,025 outside certified training hours and about 1,400 hours spent on Monday evening drills at the department.

The department will hold a benefit gun bash in March, supervisor John Shields said. “A limited number of tickets are still available,” he said.