Thursday, October 22, 2015

No Tax Hike in West Pottsgrove, Sewer Hike Possible

One thing that has become painfully clear about covering West Pottsgrove Commissioner meetings is that my data service does not like the location.

As such, it is often difficult and, Wednesday night, impossible, to live Tweet the meetings.

So, if you can bear it, you will just have to read your way through a much more conventional report on the meeting.
But enough about me and my troubles, let's get to the news, and the news is .... no tax hike to 2016, but there may be a $36 sewer fee hike.

Township Manager Ed Whetstone delivered both the township budget and sewer budget reports Wednesday night, and while the general fund budget elicited little comment from the commissioners, the announcement of a $9 per quarter hike in the fee charged to pay capital costs for work at the Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plant did draw a reaction from Commissioner Thomas Palladino.

Palladino made a point of noting that the increased sewer fee "is not written in stone," but Whetstone urged the commissioners to adopt it.

"We didn't adopt it last year and if we keep avoiding it, it is just going to put us into a deeper hole," he said.

The general fund budget figures call for spending $2,974,918, which is $81,000 less than the 2015 budget, Whetstone said.

The budget will be balanced by using $1,561,998 of the township's surplus fund, built up over the years of by tipping fees charged during the operation of the Pottstown Landfill.

Whetstone said that fund will stand at about $18 million at the end of 2015.

The sewer fund calls for spending $1,329,885 in 2016, which includes paying $120,000 to the borough for repairs and upgrades at the sewer treatment plant, money that will be funded, in part, by the $36 increase.

It also calls for spending $125,000 to upgrade two township pump stations, about $70,000 of which will be spent at the station on Old Reading Pike.

Another $241,380 is budgeted to pay for sending the township's sewage to the Pottstown plant for treatment.

Old Reading Pike Bridge

The first thing with which the commissioners grappled Wednesday night was the news that there is no intention to replace the Old Reading Pike Bridge over the Norfolk Southern tracks that connections West High Street to Grosstown Road.

Whetstone told the commissioners that the county, the railroad and the Public Utilities had reached this conclusion, in part, because all those road systems can still be accessed from Grosstown Road.

Although the commissioners expressed dismay at the news, none of them wanted to get involved because "the last time we faced this issue, we wound up owning a new bridge," as Palladino put it.

"Most people have adjusted to the change since that bridge closed," Whetstone said in characterizing the reasoning of the officials from the county , the railroad and the PUC.

"I say, let the county, the railroad and the PUC fight over it," Palladino said.

Railroad Stop

Whetstone also informed the commissioners that the township's plans for a bridge over Manatawny Creek to connect Ralph Murgia Park to the proposed stop on the Colebrookdale Railroad will require a change.

The railroad has changed its mind about where the stop will be, he said.

Instead, the railroad plan to consider a stop closer to Pottstown, near to the Sly Fox Brewery on Circle of Progress, and to its maintenance facility near the old Davis Brothers scrapyard.

The township already has a $7,500 grant to pay for a new bridge, but at the old location, said Whetstone.

There is also another $166,000 in grants the township is pursuing.

The commissioners said they may want both bridges, one that crosses the outfall from Dandy Dam, separating two portions of Murgia Park, as well as a bridge across Manatawny Creek to connect with the railroad.

Road Work

Whetstone also reported that School Lane and an adjacent alley, between Rice and Lemon streets, will be paved with the help of a grant of between $75,000 and $90,000.

Smoke Testing

Whetstone reported that the township also performed some smoke testing of the township sewer system, last week to identify places where there may be gaps in the system.

"I don't have the full report yet, but there were some areas of concern," Whetstone said.

"Palladino and Commissioners Chairman Steve Miller both noted that samoke was everywhere around the township.

"We put some in at the top of Roberts Drive and it was coming out on Berks Street," said Palladino.

"You could see it coming out of people chimneys," said Miller. "Some of the sidewalks were even smoking."

Baseball Fields

The commissioners also heard from represenatives of Pottsgrove Little League, who expressed concerns about plans for a travel team using the township field and how it might affect their use of it.

The commissioners said no changes can be made to the field without their permission, and they would prefer to see peaceful co-existence between the two groups.

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