ATMA debt must be paid

PAT FRIDGEN

With the sale of the Antrim Township Municipal Authority water system off the table for the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors, the question arises of how ATMA will repay a $195,000 loan due in November 2012. As part of the option agreement which expired, and was also rescinded by the supervisors, that debt was one of the financial obligations Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority would have taken over as the purchaser.

ATMA constructed a water tower in the Cedarbrook development but did not have the funds to pay for it. ATMA borrowed from its own Repair and Improvement fund, with the goal to repay the money in four years. No payments have been made to date.

ATMA manager Brad Graham and chair Bob Coladonato said the idea was that excess tapping fees from developers would be applied to the loan. Of course, in 2008 development came to a screeching halt. The township added just one customer in 2010, while Greencastle was ready with water for Atapco at Antrim Commons Business Park, now in active construction.

A couple options exist to pay off the loan.

Graham said the terms of the loan could be renegotiated or rates could be increased for the 350 customers.

"Or we could expand the system, but there is no demand for that now."

One debt had just been paid off, so that freed up some money that could be directed to the loan as well, he added.

Coladonato said ATMA had not yet discussed the issue, but would. Since the authority borrowed from itself, it could just extend the payback time. There was no impact on daily operations of the system.

ATMA also owes Antrim Township $641,938 stemming from the purchase of the Lincoln Utilities water system in 2003. ATMA is making regular payments on that loan, which Greencastle also would have assumed. The plant, at 14675 Sherwood Drive, just underwent a $1.5 million renovation. The bulk of it was funded by a $1.25 million DCED Infrastructure Development Grant backed by Franklin County Area Development Corporation, which will have to repay the grant if the water system is not sold to GAFCWA. Greencastle has garnered the $20 million in capital investment and 75 job creations required by the grant. Antrim has not.

ATMA's 2011 budget expects $216,200 in revenue, and $216,782 in expenses, which includes over $62,000 for debt principal. It is also paying on a $225,972 PennVest loan, which is down to $214,000. It expires in 2022.

Is it over?

To Coladonato's knowledge, the sale of the ATMA system "is done, dead."

His board crafted the original option agreement and turned it over to the Board of Supervisors. "They changed it and it hasn't come back to us since."

The changes Antrim made in December were not accepted by Greencastle, and led to the expiration of deadline terms within the document.

Coladonato still supports a regional water system. Last year he said, "We need new customers. A bigger system can expand and has flexibility, and can spread out the costs."

Graham continues to be optimistic. "I think it could still happen. It would be a good thing."