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AWA takes over service

The Altoona Water Authority has taken over responsibility for supplying water to the 130 customers of the Bellmeade Civic Association, which invited the takeover last summer after learning of the necessity for expensive upgrades to its spring-fed, private system.

The customers began receiving authority water Wednesday, and the parties were planning to close on the transfer of 16,000 feet of water lines and associated easements Friday, at the nominal cost of $1, according to authority General Manager Mark Perry.

The former association customers will pay more than they have been: depending on water usage, they paid $16 to $33 a month to the association, while now, if they use the current average of 4,000 gallons, they’ll pay $54 a month, according to a former member of the association and authority Billing Director Ron Becher.

The former association customers will not receive sewer service from the authority, Becher said.

“The deal is fine and while not strictly necessary, was certainly wise,” wrote association attorney Steve Wicks in an email. “The association was facing significant upgrade costs in the near future of at least $350,000 and uncertainty about continuing approval from (the state Department of Environmental Protection) for this type of water system, so they concluded that the time was right to put this into bigger hands.”

The takeover also relieves a burden from the volunteers who managed the system, Wicks wrote.

The authority recently invested about $40,000 in the association system for work that included replacement of a section of 4-inch line with which the authority was not “comfortable” due to flow capacity, which is significant for fire protection, Perry said.

The transition was easier than it would have been otherwise, because the authority in 2016 had made a connection that enabled it to provide water to association customers in case of drought, which tended to deplete its system output, Perry said.

The authority will need to install remote readers on the meters of former association customers, Perry said.

The takeover does not include the spring-fed association plant or any of the association’s real estate, as those were not necessary — and could have led to environmental liabilities, although no environmental problems have been identified, officials said.

In addition to adding the association’s 130 customers, the deal will enable the authority to add another customer that uses 7,000-gallons a day and perhaps a nursing home, according to Perry.

The association’s concern about unspecified future DEP requirements was justified, as regulatory additions are “never-ending,” said authority staff engineer Mike Sinisi.

The association requested the takeover after a vote of members last summer.

The association members live in Antis Township, on thoroughfares that include North Hawthorne Drive, Bellemeade Drive, Park Avenue and East Pleasant Valley Boulevard, according to a former association customer.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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