Rush Township has embarked on a $950,000 project to improve sewers, and eventually, drainage, sidewalks, paving and lighting on Meadow Avenue.

"The (old terra cotta) sewer lines are very bad. Every time we have heavy rains, it infiltrates the sanitary sewers, and then they back up into the peoples' basements," said Supervisors Chairman Steve Simchak.

Supervisor Robert Leibensperger said supervisors are "looking at programs we want to do over a 10-year period. We wanted to do the worst first."

"It's a key area that has to be corrected first," Leibensperger said.

The township plans to address repair projects based on priorities.

"We have a lot of old systems that have to be upgraded or repaired in other areas of the township," he said. Supervisors plan to do all that needs to be done on each street before moving on to the next. "If we do a project, we're going to do it right so we don't have problems down the road," Leibensperger said.

Meadow Avenue is north of Route 54, between Jeffrey Bnosky and Carmen streets. A new Turkey Hill Minit Mart, Silberline Manufacturing and the Rush Township Elementary School are close by.

He said a representative from township engineers Alfred Benesch & Company and a township sewer department employee will survey the area to verify what type of hookups residents have. "We want to make sure of how they are hooked up, and to what lines," Leibensperger said. "The maps we had from the sewer department were not accurate."

According to a presentation by Benesch on Tuesday, the project involves replacing 6,500 feet of 8-inch terra cotta pipe that was installed just after World War II with PVC and replacing about 25 manholes.

The township will do surveying, and mark water and sewer lines. The Tamaqua Water Authority will be notified in case it needs to do work on the lines as long as Rush has them open.

The township plans to pay for the Meadow Avenue project with an amalgam of financing options, including grants, low-interest loans, state liquid fuels money, and other sources.

"We have enough money to do the first phase - about $200,000 - to replace the sanitary sewer," he said. Supervisors hope to obtain grants and low-interest loans for the rest of the work, including a Safe Homes, Safe Schools grant through the state Department of Transportation for lights near the elementary school.

In January, supervisors increased sewer fees in Hometown, from $117.81 to $172 per quarter. The move drew fury from residents, but, said Leibensperger, the increase was necessary to obtain funding for sewer upgrades.

"That's why the sewer rates were raised. When you go for loans, you have to demonstrate the ability to pay them back. We have to make sure we have enough money to pay for the loans we'll need to pay for the sewer lines," he said.

Funding sources include PennDOT, PennVEST, a private bonding company, the Commonwealth Financing Authority, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing program, the Northeast Pennsylvania Alliance.

Township engineers Alfred Benesch & Company, which presented preliminary designs for the project at a public meeting Tuesday, have applied for a grant to pay the bulk of the engineering costs, Leibensperger said.

The project will be done in phases, supervisors said. Leibensperger said the township hopes to break ground in late fall. How long it will take remains unclear: the ground at the work sites will need to settle for a couple of seasons before the road can be paved.

In a related matter, supervisors on Tuesday awarded an $82,000 contract to Livengood Excavation and Paving, Walnutport, to refurbish storm sewers and do road reconstruction on from Route 54 to the top of Kahler Hill. Livengood was the lowest bidder for the job; other bids ranged up to $115,000, Simchak said.