Faulty documents delay Reade project

Water system improvements were to start this month

BLANDBURG — Water system improvements in Reade Township have been delayed, and there is a possibility that plans might be altered because loan-related documents contained incorrect numbers.

In a special meeting at noon Thursday, Reade Township Municipal Auth­ority board members discussed a loan they received from the Pennsyl­vania Infrastructure Investment Authority.

The low-interest Pennvest loan is supposed to cover the installation of 400-plus residential water meters within the public system, as well as the replacement of about 2,000 feet of pipe along a portion of Route 53 near an area referred to locally as The Tipple.

In October, officials at Pennvest, which funds infra­structure improvements, an­nounced that the water authority was eligible for a $1.57 million loan.

In the coming weeks and months, authority board members reduced the scope of work included in their improvement plan, also shrinking the price.

Meter replacements and Route 53 work should cost about $1.37 million, according to a document supplied by EADS Group engineer Pat Mulcahy.

But when official project documents were drafted, the price listed was only $800,000.

Authority solicitor Jeff Miller drafted those documents using figures supplied by EADS, Miller said Thursday. The figures included only contractor costs and left out the cost of materials.

“I should have had them in the documents, and it wasn’t there,” Miller said.

If both material and contractor costs were listed, the official documents should have included the total price of more than $1.37 million.

The error means that documents must be refiled with correct numbers, delaying the project, which was supposed to begin in September.

But there is another problem. In April, Reade Town­ship Supervisor John McElheny announced that supervisors would have to co-sign for the loan.

According to Reade engineers, Pennvest officials had expressed a desire to see a water purchasing agreement between Reade Township Municipal Authority and the neighboring Glendale Valley Municipal Authority for the duration of the 20-year loan.

Glendale, Reade’s largest customer, purchases water from Reade and redistributes it to its customers.

The idea behind the agreement was that Reade’s continued revenue from Glendale would help to more easily fulfill loan repayment.

A current purchasing agreement between the authority expires in 2022.

In February, Reade Township Municipal Authority members made it clear they had grown tired of the back-and-forth negotiations with Glendale and chose to move forward without an agreement.

The loss of that certain long-term income from Glendale led Pennvest to require that township supervisors co-sign for the loan to guarantee it’s repaid.

That co-signing came with a maximum guarantee of $1,078,000, which is short of the total project cost of $1,370,861.61 after material costs are included.

That left board members with two options — further scale back the project to cut costs or ask Pennvest to agree to the $1.37 million price.

For board member Tom Hollis, that decision was easy. He motioned to scrap the meter pit project and to move forward with improvements on Route 53.

That proposal got no support from Hollis’ peers.

That was especially true for board member Lew Wagner, who stressed the importance of adding radio-read meters to better track water usage and modernize the authority.

He said existing meters have exceeded their typical lifespan.

“They aren’t going to get any newer,” Wagner said. “This authority has got to think about the future, not sit on it and wait.”

Ultimately, a majority of board members voted to ask Pennvest officials to accept the $1.37 million cost.

Hollis dissented.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.