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Pennvest benefiting our region

Five of the six counties of the Southern Alleghenies region will benefit from grants and loans approved this month by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, more commonly known as Pennvest.

Only Fulton County is not on the list of 20 counties that will be receiving a total of $186 million for 33 drinking water, wastewater and other water quality improvement projects.

Of the five other Southern Alleghenies counties, Blair and Cambria are the biggest winners, based on the number of approved grant and loan applications getting the proverbial green light, followed by Huntingdon, Somerset and Bedford counties.

The newly approved grants and loans are enabling Pennvest to achieve another milestone in its more than 30 years of exemplary efforts on behalf of clean water across the Keystone State. The authority has now approved more than $10 billion for the benefit of Pennsylvania communities.

Funding for projects comes from a combination of state funds approved by voters, federal grants to the authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycled loan repayments from previous Pennvest funding awards, and from other sources such as Marcellus legacy funds and the Growing Greener initiative.

As described, approved grants and loans are disbursed after expenses for work are paid and receipts are submitted to Pennvest for review and final approval.

That is the right process for ensuring that the money has been spent properly, according to the plans outlined initially for each effort.

On Oct. 22, the Mirror published an article reporting that Pennvest had agreed to loan the Altoona Water Authority additional money to previously approved loans for renovation of the Bellwood dam and the water treatment plant below the dam, enabling the authority to award contracts for those projects.

The additional money — $3.5 million for the dam and $1.22 million for the plant — provides a total of $24.5 million for the dam and $11.12 million for the plant.

The monetary scope of the two projects shows how important having a funding source like Pennvest in place is to getting badly needed work accomplished.

Meanwhile, the local officials who are shepherding the projects to completion deserve praise for the vision and determination they have demonstrated along the way.

But as Mirror readers also have been apprised, the great news emanating from Pennvest — about the $186 million for 33 projects in 20 counties — extends far beyond the Altoona area, where the Bellwood Borough Authority, Greenfield Township Municipal Authority, Hollidaysburg Borough Authority and Roaring Spring Municipal Authority are receiving funds to address proven needs.

Likewise, for the other four Southern Alleghenies counties’ Pennvest recipients: Johnstown, Ebensburg, Hastings and Nanty Glo, in Cambria County; Alexandria Borough, in Huntingdon County; Bedford Borough, in Bedford County; and Somerset Borough and Hooversville, in Somerset County.

Over its three decades of existence, Pennvest has proven itself to be an efficient working model of how infrastructure needs can be prioritized, funded and completed.

Considering the long list of completed water-related projects made possible by this funding source, people across Pennsylvania should ponder the dire circumstances many communities would face if they had to finance such expensive projects alone.

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