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Williamsport sewer upgrade to cost less than originally thought

September 30, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Improvements to Williamsport's aging sewer system will not cost residents as much as the Mayor and Town Council initially thought, project officials said at a meeting Monday.

Water and sewer bills would go up a maximum of about $7 a month for the typical basic user, said Roberta Adams, a loan specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, which has made a $3.6 million loan and a $707,000 grant available to the town for emergency sewer upgrades.

If the town borrowed the entire $3.6 million, it would have to take in $42 per user per month to cover its total water and sewer costs, including operating and maintenance costs as well as loan debt, Adams said. The typical basic user now pays about $35 a month for those services, she said.

Council members mistakenly presented $42 as the amount of the potential monthly increase, when it is actually a total monthly cost per user, Adams said.

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The increase could be less than $7 a month if the town does not borrow the full amount or if it decides to make up the additional cost through taxes or other revenue, Adams said.

Residents at the meeting said the news was little comfort.

"If something else happens, they're going to raise it again," said Walter Wolfe, 79, who lives on Social Security income. "How are us people on Social Security, how are we going to cope with this if they keep raising it every time?"

Sewer rates would still be subject to small nonproject-related increases from time to time as operating costs rise, Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones said.

The Rural Development funds will be used to upgrade the town's four pump stations and reduce costly inflow and infiltration of stormwater into sewer pipes, according to project engineer Clay Riley of Oakland, Md.-based Thrasher Engineering.

The $4.3 million USDA funding package includes a $707,000 grant and a $3,633,000, 40-year loan at 2.75 percent interest, USDA Rural Development State Director Marlene Elliott Brown said.

The funds were made available by the recently enacted farm bill, which was aimed in part at reducing the backlog of pending rural water and wastewater projects across the country, Brown said. Williamsport was one of only three communities in Maryland and 232 communities nationwide to receive the funding, she said.

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