Tyrone to hold digester meeting

Councilman:?‘It’s a big decision’

TYRONE — Borough Council will hold a special public meeting starting an hour before its regular meeting on Nov. 13 so residents and business owners can digest the pros and cons of a proposed sewer improvement project — a digester now estimated to cost about $13 million.

Council began discussing the proposal more than three years ago, but planning is finished, and it’s time to for council to decide whether to go through with it, according to consulting engineer Kevin Nester of GHD, who recommended holding the meeting so customers can learn about the effect on rates.

“It’s a big decision,” said Councilman Terry Richardson, who said he has been sitting home and dwelling on the matter. “We need input.”

The emphasis now is on minimizing or eliminating the cost of landfilling the 15 loads of sludge per week the borough plant produces, because those costs are going to escalate.

“Landfill space is going away,” Nester said. “We’re not at the point now where we can do nothing.”

The landfilling cost is “in line” to go to $700,000 a year, and if the current landfill begins refusing to take the borough’s sludge because it’s approaching a permitted limit, that cost could triple, Richardson said.

The current landfill is near Johnstown, and the alternative is near Pittsburgh, according to Sewer Superintendent Tim Nulton.

The digester would dry the sludge so that it the plant would produce just one load per week — and that material could be given away or even sold, because it would be less objectionable, officials said.

As currently proposed, the project cost is at the high end of early estimates, despite having shrunk in scope.

Instead of being able to handle all the borough’s sludge, plus 15 truckloads per day from outside sources that would pay for dumping it, the currently proposed plant would handle only the borough’s sludge plus seven or eight truckloads of outside sludge per day, according to Nester.

It would be Phase 1, with an expansion possible if things work out, to allow for more revenue from the outside sources, Nester said.

The project is more expensive than expected because a vendor making an early presentation presumed a “cookie-cutter design” without considering a dryer or a truck receiving component — as well as “subsurface conditions” specific to the plant site, Nester said.

There was no talk either way Monday of producing gas or electricity to use in plant operations or to sell.

At least three potential companies have expressed interest in bidding on the project, Nester said.

The project could be paid for by low-interest loans or bonds, according to Mayor Bill Latchford and his brother, Borough Manager Ardean Latchford.

In considering whether to OK the digester, council needs to consider not just the borough’s present, but its long-term future, according to the mayor.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.