Reade project in limbo

There’s still uncertainty over how proposed water system improvements in Cambria County’s Reade Township will shake out in the weeks ahead.

The project, supposedly involving replacement of 400-plus residential water meters and installation of approximately 2,000 feet of new waterline along a portion of Route 53, was to get underway this month.

But it’s virtually certain now that won’t happen, and the Reade Township Municipal Authority ultimately must accept full responsibility for whatever the eventual delay, even though it wasn’t responsible directly for a big error in the project’s loan application.

The authority is seeking more than $1 million in funding that’s administered by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as PennVEST.

The blame must fall on the Reade authority’s shoulders because it was the entity ultimately responsible for ensuring that the funding-application documents were correct before they were delivered to PennVEST.

But Reade authority members failed to review the application documents before they were submitted to the funding agency.

Instead of the documents indicating the correct total project cost — about $1.37 million — the number listed on the documents was $800,000, which in fact was only the contractor costs related to the project. That lower number is missing the total materials cost that brings the total project number to approximately $1.37 million.

But there’s more that doesn’t make the Reade authority look good amid the total project picture. It’s the authority’s failure to convince the Glendale Valley Municipal Authority to remain a customer of the Reade authority beyond the current water-purchasing agreement scheduled to expire in 2022.

When PennVEST doles out loan money, it wants assurance that the funds recipient will be able to repay the loan during the specified loan-repayment period. PennVEST has expressed concern about Reade’s ability to repay its 20-year loan without a guarantee of revenue from Glendale Valley, the Reade authority’s largest customer.

An article in the Sept. 2 Mirror noted that Reade authority members, frustrated with their inability to reach an agreement with the neighboring authority, in essence gave up trying.

PennVEST, having considered the money challenges that the Reade authority would face without Glendale Valley aboard, decided to require the Reade Township supervisors to co-sign the application — a step about which some Reade taxpayers no doubt are unhappy.

Nevertheless, township residents apparently will have to accept that move, if the water system improvement is to become reality.

Reade residents should stay informed about whether some scale-back of the project might be necessary if the project’s incoming money isn’t enough to accommodate what’s currently planned. And they should seek to remain informed about how much the documents error delays the project — if, in fact, a delay occurs.

Uncertainty currently dogging the project could have been avoided if the authority had scheduled a special meeting to review the project documents thoroughly to ensure that they were correct, before submitting them to PennVEST.

Instead, by saving a small amount of time, the authority wasted much more.

That’s troubling, with winter only about 3¢ months away.