WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Township officials were warned Monday that inaction over increasing sewer fees could end up costing the municipality millions.
Township Administrator Michael Revitt told council that the current $84 sewer fee could not repay the existing debt and cover the costs of the needed repairs to what in some areas was a 100-year-old sewer system.
Even a recent move to pull 100 property owners in arrears into payment would not add enough to repair a single manhole, he said.
The township would need to levy a fee of $129 annually just to cover the current debt stemming from the most recent rebuilding of the system, and about $160 if it hoped to avail itself of federal matching funds grants that could be used to repair major parts of the system.
The $31 difference could cover the $1.5 million loan that the township would need to take out to receive a matching $1.5 million, he told council.
“This is not an opportunity we will ever see again in our lifetimes,” he said.
The sewer fund was never properly financed, and only a refinancing in 2004 and use of the then-EMS tax in 2006 kept costs to the township manageable, Revitt said. The township also relied on $26,000 in contractor licensing fees.
Those revenue streams are no longer available, and at the same time the system itself is facing more collapses and blockages than ever before, he said.
There are collapses on Watson and Nicholson streets, and serious blockages on East Northampton and Blackman streets, he said.
If the township does not act to obtain the state stimulus funds, the repairs will end up costing the township much more, as it will have to carry the entire financial burden from its own resources, Revitt said.
Council took the matter under advisement.
In other business, the township awarded four contracts for its police building addition.
General construction was awarded to Multiscape, of Pittston, for $436,179.05; plumbing construction to Bognet Inc, of Hazleton, for $53,360; HVAC to Scranton Electric, Heating and Cooling for $79,990; and electrical construction to Arc Electric, of West Hazleton, for $58,700.
All work will be funded from grant revenue, council noted.