Antrim misses out on grant, hires computer forensics expert

PAT FRIDGEN

He was surprised but he wasn't. That's what Antrim Township administrator Brad Graham said was his reaction when he learned from Brinjac engineer Stephen Zeller that Antrim did not receive any grant or loan money from PennVEST through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The Commonwealth Financing Authority released the names of grant recipients July 21.

Graham told the Board of Supervisors at a July 22 worksession that Antrim ranked 133 out of 138 applications. Zeller had been optimistic because Antrim's proposal for a green, innovative upgrade to the sewage treatment plant fit grant criteria. The township was looking at a $4.1 million upgrade, which included an environmentally-friendly digester. It had applied for a $3.6 million grant. Zeller had, however, noticed that some details of the ARRA program changed over the months, and Graham wondered if that wasn't Antrim's downfall. The top grant winners had major system failures, some resulting in untreated sewage in their municipalities. From meetings with DEP and PennVEST, Graham said Antrim didn't have enough points to merit funding from other sources either because user fees were low and the township was not economically needy.

Graham told supervisors James Byers, Fred Young III, Rick Baer and Sam Miller he saw three options. Chairman Curtis Myers was absent.

"As a result, we don't need to talk about the engineering fees, unless you want to move forward," he said. He was referring to Brinjac's fees, which had been negotiated from $456,400 to $289,360 but were still higher than the supervisors wanted to pay.

Graham suggested letting the project sit, consider self-funding or applying for other grants, or modifying  the plan to improve the digester but waiting on the sludge dryer. If the township wanted to apply for the second round of H20 PA Act 63 grants, the deadline was Aug. 4.

The board decided to wait until the Antrim Township Municipal Authority addressed the issue at its July 27 meeting, and then discuss it July 28.

Computer search

The board authorized spending $2,235 with Reclamere Inc. of Tyrone to conduct a forensic analysis of two computers used by former employees. The firm had been recommended by Crystal Clark, hired by Antrim's insurance company, Penn National Casualty, to represent it in the age discrimination lawsuit filed by five employees fired Aug. 21, 2008.

"We're trying to find stuff that was deleted," said Young. "They have the right credibility to make it admissable?"

The board had announced July 14 it was hiring an expert to retrieve information from computers to use in the Moss Spring Estates litigation.

Byers asked if the new information sought was being paid for by the attorneys who wanted it.

Graham replied that the first analysis had been covered by the township's insurance company. "The one suit necessitating this, I don't know, that's a question for John (Lisko, Antrim solicitor). John said we have to do this."

After the meeting Young said he couldn't confirm which cases the township needed the forensic information for nor whose computers were being searched.