Ebensburg tax worth considering

At a meeting about 35 years ago dealing with a proposed sanitary sewer project for a section of Cresson Township, Cambria County, a resident, opposed to the estimated financial impact on property owners, said raw sewage had been running over the back of his property for decades, and he didn’t care if that situation persisted for decades more.

Perhaps some Ebensburg residents will adopt a similar attitude in response to borough officials’ move toward imposing a stormwater-management fee to finance needed projects to lessen or eliminate flooding dangers there.

It is estimated that between $6 million and $7 million of such work is needed. What’s happening in Cambria’s county seat isn’t likely to remain isolated in that community.

It must be presumed that other communities across the commonwealth, including some in Blair County, will opt eventually to impose a similar fee in response to Pennsylvania’s Act 68 of 2013, which grants municipalities the authority to raise money for stormwater projects.

Ebensburg officials expressed support at a meeting last month for an annual stormwater fee of about $50 or $60, which would amount to $4 or $5 a month.

Those officials estimated that the needed work could be extended over a period of five to 20 years. What is being proposed doesn’t seem excessively burdensome, although some opposition can be anticipated any time a new fee is proposed.

In addition, some residents who experience frequent stormwater issues are likely to disagree with how projects are prioritized, if theirs isn’t near the top of the work list.

Ebensburg officials haven’t yet completed a priority list, and they haven’t decided whether borough staff and elected officials or the borough’s municipal authority – or a new authority – will be charged with handling stormwater decisions and related functions.

Blair County municipalities should watch how the process evolves in Ebensburg if they anticipate someday imposing a stormwater agenda and fee of their own.

A Mirror article on Nov. 24 quoted Dan Penatzer, Ebensburg borough manager, who said, “There’s no easy or cheap solution” and that the borough couldn’t just keep ignoring its stormwater problems.

Beyond that, a representative of L. Robert Kimball & Associates, engineers, correctly emphasized the importance of educating residents about the need for the fee and the reasons why certain projects will be given priority over others.

Any Blair municipalities eventually following Ebensburg’s lead will have similar responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Ebensburg and anyone else will be required to justify the fees that they establish.

For Ebensburg, the latest discussion represents the logical next step following completion of a four-year stormwater-management study.

It would behoove Ebensburg residents to attend council meetings and familiarize themselves with the stormwater issue before taking a stand – for or against – on what it being proposed.

While some people might eventually embrace an attitude similar to the man in Cresson Township some 35 years ago, stormwater issues, like sewage issues, are too serious to ignore.

Act 68 provides a reasonable window for flooding relief.