Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On the (Re-Paved) Road to Higher Water Rates

One could be forgiven for believing most matters of discussion at a water and sewer authority have to do with matters of water and sewage.

And to be sure, they do.

In that particular vein, the authority board unanimously (absent David Renn) officially approved the 14 percent hike in water and sewer rates that it tentatively approved in May.

The average household will pay about $35 more per year for water as the result of the vote.

The increase will generate additional revenues of $350,000 in 2017 and about $700,000 when the new fees have been in place for a full year by the end of 2018, according to Robert Plenderleith, the borough’s utilities administrator.

Much of that will go into the authority’s capital budget, which is being used according to a regularly updated five-year plan to repair and replace aging infrastructure in a water and sewer system now nearly 100 years old.

Repairs to that aging infrastructure -- and in particular the re-paving of the streets once that infrastructure is in place -- was of particular concern during Tuesday's authority board meeting.

Member Tom Carroll confirmed that when the authority re-paves a borough street after pipe work has been done, it is done "curb to curb."

Public Works Director Doug Yerger also said that when borough roads are re-paved from the liquid fuels fund simply because it needs it, it too is re-paved from curb to curb.

But if drivers of High Street were hoping for the same treatment, they will be disappointed. The $4 million water line re-placement that began last year and will continue on Aug. 2, when connections along Washington, Adams and Bailey streets will begin.

As engineer Tom Weld explained, because High Street is owned by the state, the curb-to-curb rule does not apply, so only the northern side of the street will be re-paved.

The final paving schedule for High Street will "hopefully" be finalized by the end of the month, according to Yerger.

As for keeping those streets clean, that's not happening any more.

Also under Carroll's questioning, Borougth (and authority) Manager Mark Flanders confirmed the last three years of annual street sweeping was paid through a $500,000 settlement with the Pottstown Landfill several years ago in exchange for treating the closed landfill's dwindling leachate run-off.

But after using some of the money to buy the trademark blue recycling containers, the rest went toward removing the 160 to 212 tons of grit off the streets each year.

"But that money is now exhausted," said Flanders. To pay for more street sweeping would require something else not being paid for.

Carroll offered the opinion that dirty streets keep "the kind of people we want to attract" from buying homes in the borough, and instead leads to residents who "don't care."

"I take pride in the upkeep of my house," said Carroll. "Seeing what's going on in other towns, if I could sell my house and get out of this town I would because I am tired of looking at the filth."

On that happy note, here are the Tweets from last night's borough authority meeting.

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