Lack of unified water system may have cost Antrim Township major employer

PAT FRIDGEN

A major developer in Antrim Township is asking Antrim and the Borough of Greencastle to reconsider a stalled agreement to merge two water authorities.

Pat Coggins, vice president of development for Atapco Properties, Inc. wrote a letter to the borough Dec. 19, and the brief was included in Tuesday night's agenda package for council members. The meeting was held a day late due to the New Year's holiday.

The letter was reportedly also sent to Antrim Township.

Coggins stated that Atapco had lost out on signing a major tenant for Antrim Commons Business Park, under construction near exit 3, and with it went the potential for 500 new jobs. The large industrial employer had selected another site after considering many factors, he wrote, "not the least of which was confusion and uncertainty regarding the capacity of the township to deliver adequate water and sewer capacity for their use."

He continued that Atapco was in negotiations with another Fortune 500 company for a very large project, and "we would hate to lose our next deal" if there was still uncertainty on utility services.

On Aug. 9 Antrim supervisors voted to nullify an agreement in which Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority would purchase the water system of Antrim Township Municipal Authority. Negotiations had begun in 2008, with the document from Greencastle including these clauses: to pay $15,000 for the option to purchase; put down $50,000 cash; repay ATMA's loan from the repair and improvement fund up to $195,000 for the Cedarbrook water tower; pay remaining principal and interest ATMA owes the township for engineering costs on the water treatment plant improvement project, over $20,000; pay off a Penn Vest loan of over $225,000; and pay the balance of Antrim's loan from its purchase of Lincoln Utilities, over $651,000.

There were also points on usage rates, employees, membership on GAFCWA, and the possibility of a joint authority if the number of township customers exceeded the number of borough customers. Mandatory water connection ordinances also had to be consistent with PA Act 34 of 2008.

A Curtis Myers/Rick Baer motion to rescind the agreement was supported by James Byers and Fred Young III. Sam Miller was absent.

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Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corporation, would like to see the ATMA sale consummated. He had not yet seen the letter.

“I hope Greencastle finalizes the acquisition. It’s in the best interest of the greater Greencastle community, and ultimately of Franklin County.”

He stated that both Atapco and FCADC needed predictability as they promoted the region to clients. Businesses were interested in the capacity, rate structure and quality of water, and it was difficult to make that clear with two different water systems.

“One system streamlines the process,” Ross said. “I hope everyone can get back to the table. I’m not even sure what the outstanding issues are.”

GAFCWA manager Kenneth Womack said, “We still have an offer out and we’re ready to make it happen.”

Young, Byers and Antrim administrator Brad Graham did not return requests for comment. Nor did Eric Holtzman, president of the Greencastle-Antrim Board of School Directors.

Coggins also sent copies of the letter to Congressman Bill Shuster, Senator Rich Alloway, Representative Todd Rock, the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce,  Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, First Energy, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot