Ford City May Need Additional Tax for Storm Sewer Maintenance

Ford City Council President Carol Fenyes outlines the cost of infrastructure maintenance and upgrades that will need to be done soon.

The public was put on notice last night that Ford City Borough Council may have to consider adding a new tax to finance storm sewer upgrades.

Council President Carol Fenyes painted a grim picture of work that must be done in the near future.

“We had an extensive study done of our storm drains by Gibson Thomas. They took a video camera into all the storm drains they could access. We came up with an engineering study that was estimated at $3.178 million to complete upgrades. One of the things that they estimated was that we have 443.8 tons of debris in our system that needs to be cleaned out. There are areas of collapse, areas of deterioration, but that’s just a part of it. The pump houses need to be upgraded. The outfalls need to have Tideflex valves (check valves that prevent the river from coming back into the storm sewer system) installed in them.”

Ford City has already secured a $315,000 CFA (Commonwealth Financing Authority) grant to install the Tideflex valves on five of the ten outfalls into the Allegheny River. Borough engineers Gibson-Thomas are working on creating a bid package and are anticipating getting the work accomplished this summer.

Fenyes said the Borough has been actively looking for grants, including a U.S.D.A. grant; however, the requirements of that grant has changed and will not be available to Ford City for this project.

Fenyes also said that the debt ceiling (the amount available to borrow that is calculated by the State) was $6.5 million. Ford City used $3.3 million to build its new water treatment plant, which only leaves $3.2 million available.

Gibson-Thomas Engineer Dan Schmidt gave suggestions for dealing with the debt that will be associated with making repairs and upgrades to the storm sewer system.

Last night, Gibson-Thomas engineer Dan Schmidt said the project could possibly cost more than $3.2 million because once work has begun on storm sewers, they will ultimately run into water lines that are leaky and need to be replaced as well.

Schmidt said the Borough may want to consider creating a storm sewer authority, which would have the ability to get a loan outside of the Borough for the project. If an authority is formed, then a fee would have to be charged to residents to pay back the loan, similar to fees paid to the sewage authority now. In addition to water, sewage, and garbage, there would be a storm sewer fee as well.

Creating a storm sewer authority would require legal work as well as appointing members to sit on that authority. Borough Solicitor Alyssa Golfieri said the authority’s creation could not realistically be accomplished until October.

Council Vice-President Tyson Klukan said previous councils have postponed maintenance over the years and now the system is in crisis.

“In the late 1970s, there were preliminary drawings done of pump stations, but the work was never done,” Klukan said.

“We just wanted the residents to know we are beginning this discussion,” Fenyes said.