ATMA stops the clock for GAFCWA

PAT FRIDGEN

  By PAT FRIDGEN

Echo Pilot

One extension was enough for two members of Antrim Township Municipal Authority, and because a tie vote deemed denial, the Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority was not allowed more time to complete groundwork in its effort to purchase the township's water system. At Monday's meeting members Rodney Eberly and Roy Baum voted no on a Bob Coladonato/Elwood Myers motion to give GAFCWA until Dec. 31 to perform its due diligence. The authority had previously granted Greencastle 90 days from its May 1 deadline.

GAFCWA manager Kenneth Womack submitted a letter thanking ATMA for access to its minutes, records and other information as its representatives conducted a feasibility study on the combining of the two systems. Dr. Ed Goodhart, a retired Shippensburg University professor, Gannett Fleming engineer Rachel Govelovich and solicitor Jan Sulcove have been involved in collecting data and just wrapped up duties last week.

Womack stated in his letter that because GAFCWA had just been notified it received only $520,000 out of a $2.6 million grant request through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, it needed more time. "While we are disappointed we are optimistic that the acquisition is still financially feasible. It will, however, take additional time to fully consider the financial and other implications of the lesser grant amount."

He added that some of the due diligence items had been delayed due to summer vacations. The team sought to determine the value of the water system. "I can assure you that GAFCWA is moving forward with all deliberate speed on this issue," he concluded. "We are looking forward to working with the ATMA to make this key project a reality."

Discussion

The initial vote was a tie and member Bob Schemmerling was not present to break it. Eberly said, "I'm not granting an extension because someone claims well-deserved vacation time. Boo hoo." He believed it would take another year to get additional funding.

Baum concurred. "If they don't have the money now, it won't go through."

Steve Zeller, Brinjac engineer, said the best opportunity for any grants would be through multi-municipal ventures. PennVEST was accepting applications for its next round of loans and grants, as was Pennsylvania for Act 63 H2O grants. "Economic growth is tied to a need for a guaranteed, high volume water supply," he told the board. "Generally, you can't pull that from wells. Developers say 'no water, no development.' There are other funding sources. All things considered, they (GAFCWA) haven't done a bad job so far."

Coladonato wanted to keep options open. "I'd like to give them a chance. There's still a lot for them to do. I don't want to kill this thing now."

Antrim supervisor chairman Curt Myers, from the audience, suggested a 30-day extension because ATMA had nothing to lose in allowing that. He thought perhaps property owners needing the water could also contribute to funding. Solicitor Shawn Meyers recommended telling Greencastle that there was some urgency for the township so see a conclusion to the effort.

Township administrator Brad Graham said he had not expected an issue when Womack first contacted him, and had asked for the request in writing.

A second vote, for a one month extension, yielded the same results.

Meyers reviewed the letter of intent from Greencastle and said according to the terms, the due diligence had to be completed by Saturday. The next step was a contract offer, but there was no deadline for ATMA to receive or act on it.

The two municipalities have long considered merging and got serious when the details of H2O PA Act 63 of 2008 were announced. In February GAFCWA, with 1,700 customers, officially offered to purchase Antrim's water system, with 330 customers. The concept was to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

ATMA grant denial

The board pondered its own denial of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant monies, announced last week. The hoped-for $3.6 million grant would have been used for a $4.1 million upgrade to the sewer plant. Zeller had reviewed the response and said Antrim had a low score to meet DEP criteria but high points for the project's green factor.

The board unanimously gave Zeller the go-ahead to apply for a PennVEST loan for the digester and to otherwise postpone upgrades until they were necessary and funding was available.

Zeller said his firm was wrapping up the Act 537 plan for present and future sewage facility programs. It could then be submitted to DEP and implemented.