It took a while, but the Ligonier Township Municipal Authority (LTMA) board on Wednesday approved a 2020 budget for the authority.

The budget does not include any changes to customer water or sewage rates, as the authority in September approved new water rates that went into effect on Oct. 1.

The lowest base rate under the approved rate change is $20.50 per month, which includes the customer’s first 1,000 gallons of water usage each month. All customers are charged the same base rate, but commercial customers are charged a different tiered rate for usage.

Commercial customers using up to 100,000 gallons in a billing cycle now pay $12 per 1,000 gallons. Those using between 100,001 and 200,000 gallons pay $13 per 1,000 gallons, and those using more pay $14.50 per 1,000 gallons.

After months of working with 2020 budget figures, the board on Wednesday approved a spending plan that shows a net income, on a cash basis, of $507,084 for the year. That figure does not include outlays from the authority’s accounts for any capital projects.

The LTMA has projects planned, including a major series of water system improvements, but the goal is to have the project costs covered through a combination of financing and grant funding.

Authority manager Anthony “Griff” Griffith said previously that the planned water system improvements are intended to manage water pressure throughout the LTMA system — reducing pressure in low-lying areas prone to leaks and increasing it at higher elevations.

A new water storage tank in the Darlington area is a necessity regardless of tweaks in other areas of the water system, according to water system engineer Jake Bolby, of The EADS Group. The authority is eyeing a parcel off Clark Hollow Road as a potential site for a new tank in the area.

With Idlewild & SoakZone connected to the LTMA water system in that part of the township, periods of heavy water usage by the park can greatly reduce water pressure for other customers. Previous LTMA manager Josh Kalp had listed a storage tank in the Darlington area as a future capital improvement priority in 2018.

Bolby noted a general location for that tank has been determined, with agreements still to be drafted with the property owner to allow for more detailed site planning and design work. At Wednesday’s meeting, it was indicated an on-site evaluation of the property was planned, authority secretary Haidee Street said.

Along with a storage tank near Darlington, work in several other areas of the water system would help manage water pressure, Griffith said.

Connecting two separate water lines to create a “loop” along Robb Road in the Wilpen area could boost water pressure for customers. Meanwhile, adding “pressure pits” in a section of the system not far from the township municipal building where water pressure is higher than desired could reduce pressure and hopefully decrease the frequency of pressure-induced leaks. The pressure would need to be increased again in order to feed water uphill to a water storage tank in the Oakwood Hills area of the township.

The project also proposes a new water line between the Waterford water treatment plant, which is fed by a well, and the LTMA slow sand filtration water treatment plant near the authority’s 17-million-gallon reservoir. The existing water line used to distribute water from the Waterford plant directly to customers could remain in place but would be taken out of service.

The authority is still awaiting word on its applications for grant funding through the H2OPA and PA Small Water & Sewage grant programs. The Small Water & Sewer grant awards between $30,000 and $500,000 and requires a local match of 15% while the H2OPA program is for larger projects — from $500,000 up to $20 million. It requires applicants to provide a 50% match.

The board is seeking $2 million in H2OPA grant funding to replace water lines and meters that are approaching the end of their useful life and submitting an application for funding from the PA Small Water & Sewage grant program for the replacement of pumps at a pump station near the Park Plan area of the township.

The H2OPA grant would allow the authority to replace roughly 1,600 water meters with newer models that would help quickly alert the authority and customers to in-home leaks. With current meters, abnormally high usage isn’t noticed until bills are compiled and distributed to customers. With new meters, the authority and customers would be alerted when the meter has been running continuously for 24 hours straight, signifying a leak at some point after the meter.

LTMA’s PennVEST loan for the proposed water system improvement project would count as the authority’s eligible match for the H2O PA program, Bolby said. If awarded the H2O PA grant, the authority could expand the scope of the planned water system improvements to include new water meters and water line replacements outlined in the grant application documentation.

In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, the board received an updated draft of the authority’s sewer rules and regulations to review ahead of the board’s next meeting on Feb. 19.

The board approved for Premier Power Solutions to compile a list of electricity suppliers and pricing, as the authority’s energy contract is set to expire in June, Street said. The board also approved a motion for installation of a new Badger water meter at Idlewild.

Griffith told the board that authority workers repaired a leak near Bethlen Homes on Sunday evening as well as a water line break on Nature Run Road, and alerted the board that a pump at the authority’s treatment plant would need to be replaced.

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