Eberly named ATMA chair, lease agreement approved

PAT FRIDGEN

Officers for 2012 were elected at the Antrim Township Municipal Authority organizational meeting Jan. 30. Rodney Eberly will serve as chairman. The rest of the positions are:  vice chairman, Chad Murray; secretary, Elwood Myers; treasurer, Rick Baer; assistant secretary/treasurer, Bob Schemmerling; solicitor, Linus Fenicle; engineers, Brinjac, Dewberry, and Martin and Martin, all to be used as needed; liaison to Board of Supervisors to manage ATMA business on a daily basis, public works director Carl Rundquist with Antrim administrator Brad Graham, alternate.

Garry Brennan, senior project manager with Duffield Associates, asked that his company be considered for engineering projects as well. The company was based in Delaware, with an office in Carlisle, and he had experience with projects in Franklin County.

Agreement is reached

The regular meeting Monday night was held jointly with supervisors John Alleman, Pat Heraty and Fred Young III. Baer sat with ATMA and James Byers was absent. The purpose was to discuss and finalize the sewer lease agreement, and it was done after an hour. ATMA owns the sewer system, which the township operates, so both abide by an agreement that spells out responsibilities.

A few changes submitted by the supervisors were accepted, regarding the lease year, list of financial obligations, and administrative details. The focus was on what happened to excess sewer operating funds at the end of each year. Antrim wanted to keep the money for emergencies in operations, and release some to ATMA for capital improvements at its own discretion.

"The intent is not for the township to sit on those funds and never turn them over, but rather to be prepared," said Graham.

Schemmerling reiterated thoughts he has stated for months, that ATMA can't budget for capital improvements since it didn't have such an account to build up funds, it was treated as an advisory board and in some cases the supervisors ignored the recommendations. Therefore, since Antrim made the decisions anyway, the sewer lease agreement should reflect that Antrim was in charge of capital improvements.

Schemmerling wanted protection for ATMA, since it signed contracts for upgrades to the sewer system, but Antrim ultimately had the power. He referenced the Ronca litigation, in which a developer was suing ATMA for the Kauffman sewer extension, but the township approved the project.

Heraty said retaining the status quo was best for the short-term, until a unified system could be formed with Greencastle.

"You are still the owner," said Alleman.

"But we don't have ownership," replied Schemmerling. "That's the frustration."

Myers said ATMA sought to be economical because it had to, but in the past few years, since the township reorganization, no one knew what was going on at the sewer plant. In the past, the real estate tax had covered expenses. And ultimately, if ATMA failed, Antrim was liable. Young said the agreement inferred that fact, and he  was OK to make the wording more clear. A motion to change the language to reflect the township had the final say on capital improvements passed unanimously by both boards, with Baer abstaining from both votes.

Eberly commented on a possible merge with the Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority. "Whatever ATMA gets, stand alone or joint, will benefit the community. But it will take the backing of the entire community. We need industry, but I don't want the burden on our water and sewer rate payers for something that benefits the entire community."

Tap fees

Rundquist presented data on Antrim's tap fees, as the township had been approached by Atapco for a reduction so the commercial development company could remain competitive. The numbers were calculated with a formula created in Act 57, based on replacement value of the system. Antrim's last analysis was conducted in 2009 by Brinjac Engineering.

"A tapping fee is a buy-in to the system," Rundquist said.

The capacity fee covered usage for water and sewer treated at the plants, and the distribution fee was for the lines themselves. The current rates were: water at one EDU of 167 gallons per day, capacity $942 and distribution $289 for a total of $1,231; sewer at one EDU of 251 gallons per day, capacity $3,516 and distribution $1,338 for a total of $4,854. The more EDUs per structure, the higher the fee. For a large user, it could go into the millions of dollars.

Antrim could charge less, said Rundquist, which Atapco desired.

"Keep in mind, treatment plants aren't cheap to build, either."

While Antrim's rates were comparable to those in Maryland, but higher than nearby areas in Pennsylvania, Schemmerling cautioned that many variables had to be considered, including the types of systems and fiscal stability. Rundquist intended to continue gathering information.