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Williamsport gets $325,000 grant to upgrade sewer system

Town officials plan to award a contract for the work in March and expect it to begin in late spring

March 04, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded Williamsport a $325,000 grant to help rehabilitate the town's aging sewer system.

The funding will go toward the town's $1.87 million project to upgrade its four, 50-year-old pump stations, Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said Friday.

"The pump stations are 1961 vintage, and there are huge maintenance problems," McCleaf said.

If the pump stations failed, the town would face major environmental and economic consequences, he said.

"We've been living on borrowed time for a long time," McCleaf said.

The town was previously awarded a $1,545,000 loan for the project from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, McCleaf said.

Town officials plan to award a contract for the work in March and expect it to begin in late spring, he said.

The work will take about 10 months to complete. The project includes replacing all four pump stations with updated, state-of-the art equipment, McCleaf said.

The stations are along the Potomac River, near the Cushwa basin, near Conococheague Creek and on East Potomac Street.

"The people that put them in 1961 did a great job, but they've outlived their usefulness at this point," McCleaf said.

The town's sewer system serves 106 businesses and 561 households.

McCleaf said the town was prepared to move forward without the additional grant funding from the ARC, but said the extra help was "very nice to have."

The ARC is a federal-state partnership that promotes self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life in Appalachia.

The sewer system upgrade is considered part of the town's plan to entice businesses to open or relocate in the downtown business district, according to a news release issued by U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, both D-Maryland.

The sewer work is expected to create 25 new jobs over three years as businesses open or relocate to Williamsport's revitalized downtown area, the release said.

"Maryland cities and towns need to upgrade their water and sewer infrastructure but they can't do it on their own, and rate payers shouldn't have to bear the full burden," Mikulski said in the release.

In the release, Cardin said that the town's aging infrastructure is part of a nationwide problem forcing many communities to replace deteriorating water and sewer systems.

"This grant will provide important infrastructure improvements for Williamsport, helping to revitalize the downtown business district and bring new jobs to the area," Cardin said in the release.

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