Hollidaysburg residents seek sewer answers

HOLLIDAYSBURG — In an attempt to make operations more transparent, Hollidaysburg Sewer Authority members agreed to post answers to questions asked at meetings on the borough’s website.

Still, borough residents criticized authority members at a Monday meeting, where their questions and concerns were not immediately answered.

Residents affected by an ongoing sewer project, which includes the replacement of main pipes in two large portions of the borough, have spoken against authority members for months, claiming they have been unwilling to maintain a dialogue about their work.

“They will never answer you,” resident Richard Reimer said last month. “To me, that is not transparency.”

Questions asked at the Monday meeting came from residents, including Reimer, who are upset about unforeseen costs they will have to pay as a part of the project.

Authority members said a portion of the project, which will affect hundreds of properties, was mandated by the state Department of Environmental Protection because water depth levels below manholes exceeded an agreed-upon limit.

That is because of inflow and infiltration — unwanted ground- and stormwater entering the sanitary sewer system — which limits space for sewage and sometimes causes overflow.

This is a result of cracked and aging main pipes, which allow water to seep into the borough’s sanitary sewer system. Those pipes are being replaced.

However, homeowners also will have to pay to replace the pipes within property lines and under homes if they fail a

borough mandated pressure test.

The work, residents claim, could cost more than $10,000 and require basement floors to be torn up. That is a point of contention among those who do not have money saved for the project, as well as those who have finished basements.

Complaints from residents have been ongoing and unchanged for months, and the same was true Monday evening.

Sewer authority members maintain that under-home work is necessary.

That is in contrast to decisions from officials in other area communities, such as Ebensburg and Gallitzin, where required work will end at residents’ foundations.

“If this is such a good idea, why don’t you volunteer to have it done to your houses first?” affected resident Jennifer Perry said Monday, claiming at least some authority members live outside of the affected region were sewer work is taking place.

Reimer called authority members “blasted rotten stubborn” for their unwillingness to change rules about under-home work.

The requested change is an impossibility, authority Chairman Regis Nale said after the meeting.

“We are already committed,” Nale said, noting a late-in-the-project change wouldn’t be fair to those who already completed and paid for under-home work.

During the meeting, Nale and other authority members remained silent as residents asked them questions.

However, Nale said full answers to each question would be posted on the borough website within a week.

That peeved some in attendance, who expressed concern for elderly or low-income borough residents who do not have internet access.

Those residents, Nale said, could visit the local public library to access the website.

Residents continued to protest, claiming those with physical disabilities may not be able to get to the library to use computers.

Nale also invited those in attendance to approach individual authority members and administrators after the meeting.

Some residents took that advice, but in one case, a discussion between Reimer and authority member Ralph Miller ended in a heated debate.

In a nearby hallway, residents said they plan to attend a Hollidaysburg Borough Council meeting Thursday to complain about the sewer authority.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.