Ligonier Township Municipal Authority (LTMA) customers with delinquent water or sewer accounts will need to find a way to begin chipping away at their outstanding bills or face the prospect of going without public water service soon.

LTMA manager Anthony “Griff” Griffith told the authority’s board during Wednesday’s meeting that the authority plans to print and post letters early next week notifying customers with delinquent accounts that their water service will be shut off if their unpaid bills aren’t addressed.

The authority has contacted roughly 50 customers regarding delinquent accounts, Griffith estimated, and less than a third have taken measures to avoid water shutoffs so far. For customers with LTMA water and sewer service, the authority charges a $50 shut off fee and another $50 fee to restore service. Griffith said the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC) has agreed to shut off water service to customers who have delinquent LTMA sewer accounts but who receive water service from MAWC.

The LTMA board also on Wednesday reorganized for 2021, tabbing Bruce Kemerer, who was absent from the meeting, as the board’s chairman. The board selected Chris Light as vice chairman, Daniel Resenic as secretary and John Beaufort as treasurer.

The board reappointed the authority’s engineering firms, solicitor, accounting firm, auditor and depositories for 2021 without changes. The EADS Group was reappointed as water system engineer and Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. as sewer department engineer. Daniel Hudock was reappointed as solicitor, DeLuzio & Co. as the authority’s auditor and Singer Accounting as accountant. The board reappointed First Commonwealth for original sewer checking accounts, First National Bank for water and sewer operational, payroll and money market accounts and Commercial National Bank for remaining accounts.

The board reviewed 2021 budget documents and will look to approve a budget for the year at the Jan. 20 meeting. A new spending plan could be accompanied by changes to the authority’s sewage rates, although no figures were discussed publicly Wednesday.

Griffith will be meeting with Singer Accounting prior to that meeting, he said, to continue budget work. LTMA board members directed him to also work on a proposal for sewage rate changes to help avoid a deficit in the sewage department budget and to prepare the authority financially for a proposed Act 537 project for Ligonier Township that includes construction of a new wastewater treatment plant along Wilpen Road.

“I hate to say it, but I think we’re going to have to do the same thing we did with water (rates),” Beaufort said.

The authority increased rates for water service on Oct. 1, 2019, ahead of a planned water system improvement project.

The lowest base rate under the water rate change is $20.50 per month, which includes the customer’s first 1,000 gallons of water usage each month. After the first 1,000 gallons under the new rates, customers are charged $9 per 1,000 gallons.

While base rates for all customers are the same, and calculated based on the customer’s meter size, commercial customers are charged a different tiered rate for usage.

Commercial customers using up to 100,000 gallons in a billing cycle 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.

The water rate change came in anticipation of the authority’s extensive water system improvement project, intended to manage water pressure throughout the LTMA system — reducing pressure in low-lying areas prone to leaks and increasing it at higher elevations.

That project is getting closer to breaking ground, according to water system engineer Jake Bolby of the EADS Group. While still in the permitting and right-of-way acquisition phase, Bolby said the project could be moving along this spring following a recent meeting with Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials.

Similarly, Hudock said subdivision and right-of-way agreements related to the water system project are in the works.

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