ROUTE 209 SEWAGE PROJECT MEETING MINUTES December 4, 2019
Meeting opened at 3:00 PM Present were: Bill Kiger, Fred Weber, Michael Asimakopoulos, Paul Fischer, Al Schneider, Frank Tarquinio, Tony Waldron, Matt Osterberg, Nick May, Mike Mrozinski, Penney Luhrs; and Matt Roberts and Mark Spatz via phone.
Minutes from November 6, 2019 Meeting – Approved
A progress report was provided from HRG. Matt Roberts stated they have 268 of the mail surveys, but Corey looked into that a bit further and reaching 485 isn’t something that is required as much as getting the on-site inspections complete. He has made some progress over the last couple of trips out to Milford. There are 382 inspections out of 485 required. There is only one left in Milford Borough and Matamoras Borough is completed. It is getting down to the Townships. We can’t do on-site inspections when there’s snow. We will continue with the on-site inspections depending on the weather.
We have our DEP meeting scheduled at the Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes Barre at 10:00 AM this Friday (December 6th). Matt Roberts said we have the TAR Comment Response Letter to DEP for our meeting and the meeting has been scheduled. We are continuing to add Mail Surveys and also conducting the on-site inspections once again finishing up both of the Boroughs and making some progress. As far as next month, we will be trying to schedule some of the inspections, weather permitting. We will continue working on the main chapters of the Act 537 Plan as we get more information.
Mike Mrozinski asked if they have enough for the inspections or do you still need some assistance from the Townships. Matt Roberts replied a push would definitely be helpful. Matamoras uses the water bills and that helped increase the number of Mail Surveys that we received. That definitely helped with getting more surveys than going door to door. Mark Spatz added that the important thing is the on-sites versus the Mail Surveys. The Mail Surveys open the door to the on-site inspection (we get the name, phone number, etc.). Right now, we can’t because we had 10 inches of snow and we have to wait until that goes away. One of the things we are trying to look at is – can we proceed with what we have? We have both Boroughs, which are the main population, and then through the Townships is just a main line and we’ll have some spurs off of there for service. We’re taking a look at that now. I am hopeful that we will be able to proceed that way. We will definitely know with this meeting with DEP on Friday. We will give everyone an update at that point. Having both the Boroughs complete is definitely good. With the Townships, since it’s a more rural nature, they’re not as critical. If we only had one Borough to complete and the other Borough didn’t have any that would be more troubling than the situation we are in now. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get any more on-sites until the spring because of the snow. I just don’t think it’s going to melt. That is where we stand. If I had to guess, we will be able to move forward with what we have through the winter. We can prepare a draft on the Plan and get that out to the municipalities for review and continue to make progress. We can finish up doing our Surveys to meet our quota to publically advertise the finance in the spring.
Tony Waldron asked if Mark has all the information he would need from the municipalities to work on completing the rest of the Plan? Matt Roberts said as of now he can’t think of anything left. Most of the things left are dealing with working on alternatives or some of the results of the Surveys which are not complete yet for the Townships. As of right now, I don’t think that there is anything major that we need
from the municipalities. Mark Spatz said he thinks they have everything they need. One of the questions for Friday’s meeting is going to have to be wells. I guess some of the properties that are in the Townships have wells – are they going to expect us to get samples from there? We’ll have to see what they say and go from there. That is it from our standpoint.
Mike Mrozinski asked if they could give the municipalities a feel for what they can expect on Friday (December 6th meeting with DEP). Mark Spatz said he thinks DEP just wants to get the temperature of everybody and make sure everyone is on the same page. I think they just want to make sure that the municipalities are actively engaged in this project and this process. They want to make sure it’s not just an engineer doing this stuff with one supervisor. Matt Roberts added that Patrick wants all of the municipalities there to make sure everyone is on the same page. Making sure that, going forward, we understand everything and follow the check-list which we know about. Mark Spatz said it sounds like to him that Mike Bednar might be there with some Executives. Other meetings I have been in they have been there in the beginning and then leave. Tony Waldron asked if they’re (DEP) aware of the proximity of Milford Borough to the National Park Service properties areas? In terms of what alternatives do exist beyond what we are trying to make work here? In the past, DEP has been aware of that and, back at one point, Bill Schneider and I were at a meeting where the National Park Service came in and said Milford can’t come into the river there. Even if you had the wherewithal financially to do it, you just can’t do it. Since Milford has an obvious need and no good alternative and, here is an alternative where there is an existing plant, which is certainly a cost savings, it might matter more than just a typical paper exercise of where is this going. Mark Spatz said he is not sure, he guesses they are aware, but I don’t anticipate them having any kind of push back. Mark Spatz stated that any questions, comments, concerns – it gives us information that we need to cover in the plan. What about these other things? The answer is it costs more. That’s why we’re going this route. That’s why the towns are working together-it reduces cost. It’s a $6M-$8M cost that we need to overcome.
A question was raised regarding past County plans, engineering study a couple of years ago? Commissioner Osterberg responded there was discussion years ago to do some land swaps, but with the Park Service that’s literally an Act of Congress. Years ago there were discussions about other facilities, whether it would be on the Milford dump, whether it would be a swap for the Milford dump for a piece of property that sits behind Milford Township Building – this was 20 years ago. The hurdles to get over that is literally an Act of Congress.
Mike Mrozinski asked if DEP designated the Westfall facility as the Regional Disposal Facility or some sort of official Regional Facility. Al Schneider replied that he thought at one time they were working on that. Tony Waldron added he believes they did in the 1990’s, but then in the early 2000’s there were antidegradation regulations. They said they’re going to go in a different direction, we don’t want Regional Plans, we want more On-Site Applications, unless you can show there’s no way to do that.
Tony Waldron asked Mark Spatz that HRG had indicated they submitted comments back on the TAR letter, did you copy us? Matt Roberts said he did not yet and he could get that out. Tony Waldron said maybe by tomorrow before the meeting (with DEP), in case something comes up. Matt Osterberg asked if Mark Spatz would have a plan ready for spring. Mark Spatz replied he would have to sit down with Corey and see where we are. I’d like to have a Rough Draft, we’re not going to have all the assessments done. The Stakeholder Group and other people can look at it and start bouncing it back and forth. We’ll see where things are at. Do we have to have the assessments done for that or not? Probably not. We do have to have the assessments done for the Draft that goes out for public comment. That needs to be the Complete Plan for public review and comment. That might be some time in May, 2020. We usually get storms in March, so it takes until near April before it melts and we see some grass. Matt Osterberg asked
because he knows we put in for RAP Grant funding and I was looking for the time-table for us to be thinking about things like LSA Grants, maybe we’re still too early even for next September. September of 2020 is LSA deadline for grant funding that is available in spring of 2021-I don’t know if we will be too early to be jumping on that. We have 3 years to begin spending it. We’d have that money spent by 2024. I just don’t want to miss a cycle if we can avoid it and, of course, other funding sources. That’s what is going to drive all these fears of things costing too much to hook up. I believe in Hawley Borough that’s how the hook-up fees were reduced. That’s how hook-up fees in Westfall Township were reduced also. We don’t want to miss a cycle on that. Mike Mrozinski added that, if HRG has anything that we can peruse about grant options that would help everyone be knowledgeable of it. Mark Spatz said he will look to see if we have a list of up and comings for the grant cycle. Matt Osterberg said we can talk to USDA and ask them about timetables on all this also. As the final reports begin to be put together, what’s the timetable on getting those done, public comment and all of that stuff so that everything can hopefully fit together without missing a cycle. Mark Spatz agreed. It was agreed that January 8, 2020 would be the date for the next Sewer Project Meeting.
Bill Kiger asked about the status of the mandatory hook-up, which is the big concern of Milford Borough residents. Matt Osterberg said he thinks we should just talk first about what the initial plan is. Where are the sewer lines going? The main goal is to bring this line down Broad and Harford Streets, not down East High Street, East George Street or any of those side streets. If that is the case, it’s running down the commercial district to make this financially viable. Probably all of those businesses along that route would have to hook-up. Unless there is more grant money out there to make it so that it can be a hook-up over time for the commercial district, but the main goal of this entire meeting was to satisfy the needs of the commercial district. Bill Kiger asked how it will affect the residents. Matt Osterberg said that it could be a number of years from now. Will it be mandatory hook-up? I don’t know. Is there a mandatory hook-up in Hawley? Tony Waldron said actually there is – that system was primarily designed to serve residential more than commercial. He added that, in the past when that question has come up, the feeling was if there are a number of systems in poor or failing condition indicated by the inspections, the DEP could come back and say you have to come up with a plan to do that, but that plan could roll out at a period of a decade or two. Quite frankly, some people could use it now – if it’s not good now, it doesn’t usually get better on its’ own, they would have to tie in over a period of time, but that would also allow for an additional opportunity for funding. I don’t know if we can say that never happens, because it could. Mark Spatz said DEP typically won’t really be heavy handed with hook-ups if there is a public safety concern contamination of waterways or wells. Most people in the Borough are on public water so they won’t have to worry about that. If there is active sewer running on the ground in a certain area, they’re going to want to see that addressed in one way shape or another. Matt Roberts added that he talked a little about this with Corey. I have been told that the best answer is to tell them that we don’t know because, at this point it’s not up to us. The DEP can come in and say it. It’s better to not say something and not have their expectation that it never could happen.
Frank Tarquinio said their current plans at the Borough Council is to get the main line in and as we can get grant money to make it useful to the owners to put it in over time. I’m not looking for it to be on my street in my lifetime, but whoever buys my house will have it by then. Westfall Township is still expanding theirs. It is not something in the Borough you’re going to see in 5 years where the whole Borough will have hook-up. Mike Mrozinski added that a plant capacity would also have to be a concern along the residential route too. Matt Osterberg asked how many years has the Plant been there? The answer was it was turned over in 1999, but it may have been in the 80’s. They’re still building on it and we’re 30 something years later and not every resident in that section of Westfall Township has central sewage. Mark Spatz said if there isn’t a public safety concern, the DEP has not been heavy handed. When you get into the concern of connections and what not, the feasibility of building the system. You can’t build miles of
sewer lines and not have anybody connect. It’s not an “if we build it, they will come” scenario, it’s a “who is going to connect to it, who will our customers be?” scenario.
Does the Authority currently have DRBC approval for capacity to come to Milford? Tony Waldron replied yes, up to a point. They roughly evaluated what it could accommodate. Providing for the commercial areas and the areas in between, including parts of Westfall that haven’t been sewered yet, those numbers would work without necessarily using up all of the capacity. If somehow it was determined that maybe in the future all of Milford Borough needed the sewer, or even expansion areas along Milford Township or Westfall Township, there might be a need to say either that we have to stop or we have to see if DRBC would raise the level from what it is now. Is it just going down Broad Street and Harford Street to start with – does that make it financially viable? Is there not a scenario where any other funding like USDA or Penn Vest, where we are obligated to run those sewer lines, not just down Broad and Harford Streets, and connect the residents? Matt Osterberg said there will be a plan to expand it to the rest of the Borough. This plan will be all-encompassing. This isn’t going to happen tomorrow, this is going to be over time. There is a lot at play here with capacity at the Plant, discharge into the river and over that time nobody wants to see residents pay exorbitant fees. I don’t think that’s going to be the case because that hasn’t been the case in any other municipality to do that. That is why we continue to go after grant funding as we do this. The plan will show sewer lines up and down the borough streets for future use. Mark Spatz said we are starting to get into the next phase of this where questions like this come up. These are all great questions. We are a little too early yet to have succinct answers. These questions will have more solid answers once we get to the point where we have a Draft Act 537 Plan that is ready or close to ready for public comments/review. There will be an advertised meeting and there will be people ready to address these questions. The feedback at those meetings will be used by the municipalities to consider making changes to the Plan. We have to do the best for the majority of the service area. To think we’re going to come out of public meetings and everybody is going to be 100% happy is not realistic-that never actually happens.
Frank Tarquinio asked what constitutes a fail when doing an inspection. Is it just when you have a cesspool prior to 1970? Matt Roberts responded that the DEP has guidelines. There are several different categories. One is confirmed failure-actual sewage above the ground. There’s also no malfunction where you don’t see any problems with the system. There is suspected malfunction-when you have any type of problem and you don’t know for certain it’s failing but has some possible failure, unusual wetness, strong odors or something of that nature. Cesspools in general are considered suspected malfunctions. Potential malfunctions are things that aren’t permitted. They have existed from before ~1950.
With no other business, the meeting stood adjourned. Next meeting will be on January 8, 2020 at 3:00 PM in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room