Sewer fees not expected to change due to $10M renovation

Robert Inglis/The Daily Item The water treatment facility on the Isle of Que is being required to upgrade its facilities.

The Eastern Snyder County Regional Authority (ESCRA) is explaining its decision to put a moratorium on any new hookups at its wastewater treatment plant in a letter to the county commissioners.

Earlier this month, the county board chastized the authority for "stifling economic growth" and poor negotiation tactics before sending a formal letter urging the authority to lift the moratorium.

In a response letter that county Chief Clerk Tony Phillips said was received Friday, ESCRA solicitor Kenneth Potter said without an approved revised service agreement among its four municipal members — Selinsgrove and Shamokin boroughs and Monroe and Penn Townships — the authority is unable to obtain a low-interest loan to make necessary repairs to the aging wastewater treatment plant that has equipment more than 40 years old.

"While ESCRA has done an excellent job finding ways to keep these crucial systems running, it is only a matter of time before equipment failure," Potter wrote.

To stave off any failures, the authority enacted the ban effective Oct. 1.

ESCRA and the municipalities have been working for months to make agreed changes to the service agreement.

Bob Cravitz, Selinsgrove Borough's solicitor, wants a new service agreement that would mainly charge sewer fees based on flow and not content and blames the ESCRA board for enacting the hook-up moratorium because authority members were not involved in the discussion.

It's a "crisis that doesn't have to be," he said.

Not so, according to the authority members who are trying to protect an aging sewer plant.

In his letter, Potter said he hosted several meetings of the municipality members' representatives, the latest on Aug. 30, and said proposed changes have still not been submitted.

Scott Bailey, the plant manager, said he had hoped that the estimated $10 million plant upgrade project would have already been underway. 

"We have the final design on the project and hope to put it out for bid before the end of the year," he said of the planned flood-protection upgrades and equipment replacement at the Isle of Que plant and two pump stations.

According to financial records provided The Daily Item through a Right to Know Law request, ESCRA has $7.5 million in reserves. The board has not yet decided how much of the available money will be used to pay for the upgrades since two other equipment renovation projects are pending.

When asked for comment about the dispute over the moratorium, Bailey said he was not authorized to speak and referred questions to Potter.

Potter forwarded to The Daily Item the letter he wrote to the commissioners, but declined to comment further saying he would ask the authority board later this week for authorization to speak publicly. 

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