Last updated: February 19. 2013 10:42PM - 144 Views

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SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. - South Abington Twp. supervisors agreed to help back an Abington Regional Wastewater Authority (ARWA) bond to fund an extensive upgrade and expansion project at the authority's facilities in the spring.

The township would guarantee a portion of the bond proportionate with its 55 percent share in the authority, which also is also composed of Clarks Summit and Clarks Green boroughs. The authority is working on deals to bring others municipalities, like Glenburn Twp., on board.

The guarantee would only come into play if the authority defaulted on repayment of the bond, a rather remote possibility, according to the Michael Donahue, the authority's attorney.

The authority has received two bids for the bond, which is expected to provide the authority with $23 million for one of the largest projects in the authority's 45 year history. Officials expect to hammer out the details by next month.

Donahue noted that an alternative to a bond would be a promissory note from a bank. That route, however, could prove more costly because the interest rate would be variable, while a bond's interest rate would be fixed for the life of the bond. Interest rates are at an all-time low, he added.

The bond would be part of a funding package that includes a $9.7 million low-interest loan from the state and a $1 million grant in Pennsylvania stimulus money. The project is estimated to cost a total of $34 to $35 million.

We stand on the goal line, Donahue said. We hope to begin construction in April.

The authority must revamp and expand its facilities to comply with new EPA mandates for sewage plants that discharge treated water into rivers and streams that ultimately terminate into the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S.

Another issue is the sewage collection infrastructure, which is old and crumbling. Groundwater and storm water often seep into the collection system, overloading the plant and causing untreated sewage to be discharged into Leggetts Creek. This overflow is called an influent bypass. When it occurs, the plant is subject to fines from the EPA and PA Department of Environmental Protection. The proposed project would increase the plant's capacity to avoid influent bypasses.

Giles Stanton, the board of supervisors chairman, saw the decision to guarantee the bond as a prudent one.

We pay for it anyway, one way or another, he said.

The project is expected to cost $34 to $35 million. The authority has already secured a $9.7 million low-interest loan from the state.

In other news, the supervisors voted to keep the current tax millage at the current 14 mills in 2013. Lower rates, including 1 mill for parks and recreation and 1 and 1 quarter mills are allotted for fire protection.

South Abington Twp. plans to pass its 2013 budget at a special meeting Dec.27.

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