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Bellwood objects to potential $100 water bills

Representatives of the Bellwood Borough Authority on Thursday complained that its customers could be facing water bills of $100 a month.

Bellwood authority members said adjustments in a 30-year-old intermunicipal agreement to accommodate the Altoona Water Authority’s upcoming Bellwood dam and water plant renovations will unfairly raise water rates for Bellwood’s 1,500 customers to the highest levels in the state.

The Altoona authority has demonstrated “limited cooperation” as the smaller authority has pleaded for flexibility in following the “outdated” agreement that otherwise will raise rates to an “unaffordable” $100 a month in Bellwood, forcing Bellwood customers to subsidize Altoona customers, according to Bellwood consulting engineer Brian Shura of Stiffler McGraw — who suggested that funding agency Pennvest should know of the controversy.

The accusations of non-cooperation are “false,” and the Altoona authority will “respond vigorously” if there’s an attempt to “interfere” with the Pennvest funding, said Altoona authority solicitor Dave Consiglio.

The authority is “moving ahead,” and Bellwood isn’t going to stop the projects, Consiglio added.

Bellwood is looking at its options, including the possibility of finding water from another source, according to Shura and Brian Kustaborder, a Bellwood authority board member.

Based on the agreement, the borough’s 1,500 customers will be responsible for $10 million in capital costs, Shura said.

That means the borough’s current fee of $8,500 a month for water from the AWA would rise to $64,000 a month, Shura said.

It’s not fair, because the average daily demand for water from Bellwood customers is just 20 percent of the peak allocation of 1.25 million gallons a day listed in the agreement, according to Shura.

The interpretation of the agreement ought to be “fluid,” Shura said.

The Altoona authority has rejected suggestions for making adjustments based on its not wanting to set a problematic precedent with other bulk customers, but the adjustments the borough wants are “specific” to Bellwood, Shura said.

The Bellwood authority serves part of Antis Township, Kustaborder said.

“We’re proceeding in good faith,” said Consiglio.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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