Tamaqua officials elected to allow the borough's water and sewer authorities to proceed with the next steps of their involvement with the Rt. 309/Center Street bridge replacement that is slated to begin next spring. At last month's meeting, council asked that the authorities halt their proceedings based on preliminary information that the project, which will require the relocation of the borough's water and sewer lines, could end up costing the borough, and in turn, the taxpayers, over $600,000.
Councilman Brian Connely, who is also the chairman of the water authority, asked council to allow the authorities lift their restriction last night, explaining that the current estimated costs to the borough were not as much as previously thought. "The estimated total cost of the sewer project is $700,000," said Connely, "The authority's share is about $110,000. The estimated cost for the water project is $500,000 plus. Our cost is about $250,000." Connely explained that the borough will get a break on the sewer project because the borough is only responsible for the area of the project that is in the right of way. Sixty seven per cent of the proposed project is outside of the borough's right of way and PennDOT will be responsible for the entire cost. "We would like to proceed with the design phase of the project," said Connely. "It all comes back to we are in a no win situation." Connely said that the authorities will continue to negotiate with PennDOT, but ultimately, could end up shouldering the entire bill if they continue to fight. "Everything is stacked against us," he said. "If we say we're not going to pay, and they say they're not going to do the bridge, we still have issues that we need to correct, and we will pay for all of it. If they go ahead with the project and do the project how they want it, at the end of it, they're going to say here's your bill." "We're responsible for about $350,000 of a $1.3 million bill. Yes, that's a lot of money," he said, "but it's not a bad match."
Connely explained that the authorities plan to use a short term line of credit to pay for the project. Additionally, they will have a bond issue that is coming due at the end of the year, which will also be used to pay for the project. They have planned to include money in that line of credit for work on the wild cat sewer investigation. As far as rate increases for water and sewer customers, Connely said that that is always a possibility, but would be used as a last resort.
Council also voted to issue a citation to the Reading and Northern Railroad for the deteriorated condition of its property along the Borough's Pleasant Row. Last month, council authorized solicitor Michael Greek to contact the Railroad regarding repairs to the wall, which have resulted in damage to the North Railroad Street. Greek said that he has had no response from the railroad regarding the matter. Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt said that the area continues to deteriorate, and although the Borough would like to repair 300-400 feet of the wall, the critical area needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Greek recommended that the railroad be cited by the borough's code enforcement officer and given a "reasonable amount of time" to make the repairs before the borough takes on doing the repairs themselves, which could be done under the property maintenance code. Greek said that if that is not done, the railroad could in turn issue citations to the borough workers for trespassing on their property.
In other business, council voted to proceed with an engineering study for Bungalow pool's filtration system discharge system. Following a fish kill in the Little Schuylkill river earlier this spring, it was determined that the pool's filter system was discharging waste water into the Wabash Creek, which feeds the Little Schuylkill. Although it has been determined that the discharge did not have anything to do with the fish kill, the borough is still responsible for correcting the situation. Steigerwalt added that the borough did receive a $500 fine from the Fish Commission. DEP has not fined the borough at this point. "They are looking for corrective action," said Steigerwalt. A temporary system has been put in place, but a permanent solution is still being researched. Wade Associates will prepare the engineering study.
Council voted to advertise the installation of a stop sign at the intersection of Hamilton and Lafayette Streets. They also voted to place a "no parking here to corner" sign on the south side of West Broad Street, where 209 enters the town. Parking and traffic chairman Steve Tertel noted that residents are currently parking in the area, making it difficult for drivers to make the corner turn. A "children playing" sign will be installed at Columbia and Arlington Streets, near the entrance of the East End playground. The parking and traffic committee will also review the placement of a 4th stop sign on the at the Schuylkill Avenue intersection with Elm Street. It is currently a 3 way stop.
Council approved the recommendation from Alfred Benesch & Company to remove the intake tower at the Upper Owl Creek Dam. Connely noted that to repair the structure would cost the borough $220,000, while removal of the tower would only cost $80,000. Councilman John Trudich opposed the recommendation, stating that the structure was historic.
Council also approved a motion authorizing Municipal Energy Managers to file a formal complaint with the Public Utility Commission on behalf of the borough for the acquisition of municipal street lights. According to Steigerwalt, Tamaqua is one of eleven boroughs in the complaint. Council approved the purchase of the street lights last year, however, PPL appears to be dragging its feet on turning the lights over. Steigerwalt said that he has had communication from MEM that indicates that the project may finally be proceeding.
Council appointed Dr. Joanne Calabrese to fulfill the unexpired term of Dr. Richard Miller on the Board of Health. Miller passed away earlier this year. His term is set to expire in December, 2012. Upon the recommendation of the zoning hearing board, council appointed Attorney Joseph Matika as solicitor to the board. Council hired Peter Wysochansky as a part time police officer. After a brief executive session regarding personnel matters, Dan Schroeder was hired as a full time borough employee based on the completion of his probationary period. Schroeder is the housing rehabilitation officer.