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Grants work, recipients say

April 02, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - No road leads to the wells on Tuscarora Mountain that feed the Dry Run, Pa., public water system, said Connie Gamble, secretary of the Dry Run Water Association.

Power to draw the water came from a windmill, Gamble said. When the system broke down, usually in dry periods, volunteers had to climb the mountain and start a hand-pulled gas generator to keep water flowing to the system's 80 customers. They often had to stay on the mountain to keep the generator's gas tank filled.

"One time I went with my husband so he wouldn't be up there alone," Gamble said.

In 1994, the unincorporated community in northwest Franklin County got an $805,000 Community Development Block Grant for new distribution lines, meters, treatment plant and an 86,000-gallon storage tank. "It solved our problems," Gamble said.

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Her story was one of several told to the Franklin County Commissioners Tuesday by small town officials on how they spent more than $4 million in CDBG funds to improve water and sewer systems since 1994.

Commissioners President G. Warren Elliott said the county has committed its block grant funds to improve the infrastructure in towns and boroughs.

"This is a shift," Elliott said. "Before, we spent too many dollars on too many projects with nothing getting done. If we can preserve the small, less affluent towns we can preserve our green space. They need help."

The block grants make water and sewer systems more affordable for everyone, officials said. They offer direct grants to low-income and older residents to help them pay hook-up fees, which can run from $2,000 to $3,000. Without such grants, some would lose their homes, officials said.

The Metal Township Municipal Authority received $1.3 million in CDBG grants in 1996 for water and sewer projects.

Anna Swailes, an authority member, said the daughter of a woman came to her office crying because her mother couldn't afford the hook-up fees. "She said her mother would have to move," Swailes said.

The woman received a grant that paid 76 percent of her hook-up costs, Swailes said.

According to the county planning commission, 69 percent of Metal Township's residents are low- and moderate-income. In Dry Run, it's 65 percent.

The Borough of Mont Alto, Pa., received $857,000 for water and sewer projects. Quincy Township, Pa., received $671,000 toward its new $11 million sewer system now under construction. Edenville, Pa., through the St. Thomas Township Municipal Authority, got $42,000 toward a new sewer system and the Borough of Orrstown, Pa., got $350,000 to improve its water system.

Planners said funding public water and sewer projects encourages growth in older neighborhoods, minimizes conflicts with agriculture and reduces the amount of agricultural land taken by development.

Elliott said Franklin County is a leader among counties saving farmland through the state's Agricultural Land Preservation Program. Landowners are paid to guarantee that their land will stay in agriculture and won't be sold to developers.

So far, 6,472 acres on 44 farms are in the preservation program in Franklin County, Elliott said.

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