Sewer project may require eminent domain
The West Penn Township Board of Supervisors will move forward on its sewage plan, with or without the cooperation of several property owners.
That could mean the use of eminent domain in order for the township to obtain the necessary easements for soil testing.
West Penn is in the process of updating its Act 537 Sewage Facilities plan, which includes working with neighboring Walker Township in the Clamtown-Reynolds area.
In order to advance the plan, Rettew of Schuylkill Haven, West Penn's engineering consulting firm, needs to finish performing percolation tests on the soil of properties.
Following an executive session for legal matters at the board's meeting Monday evening, township solicitor Gretchen Sterns said that a "small handful of people" have not cooperated with the township in allowing the testing to be done on their land.
Supervisors Chairman Alfonso Martinez said there are four properties in Clamtown being targeted for the eminent domain action, for which the township would obtain the legal right for a temporary easement, limited to two months.
"There is not a lot of available open land, and we are running out of options," stated Sterns. "We have been working with the property owners since the fall. We've met with them, showed them maps and tried to accommodate the owners' needs with the least amount of interference to our own. We are now at a time deadline for DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection)."
The board moved to authorize Sterns to file for eminent domain for the required easements to the properties for the testing, if the property owners do not agree to cooperate and allow that access by March 14.
"The board of supervisors is making one last attempt to work with the owners to resolve issues," said Sterns.
Supervisor James Akins stressed that the eminent domain proceedings are a last resort and that the board would rather have the cooperation of the land owners.
"The supervisors take this seriously," said Akins. "It's the last straw that we have to act with eminent domain.
"Nothing will get damaged (by the testing), and everything gets put back to the way it was. We are reaching out and trying to get them to go along with it."
In a related matter, the supervisors are attempting to schedule a joint special meeting with the Walker Township board to discuss the sewage plan. March 23 was suggested as a possible date.
Ron Madison of Rettew announced a schedule of public meetings that will lead up to the adoption of the Act 537 plan update.
On Thursday, April 28, the updated plan will be presented, which will start the 30-day public review period.
That would be followed by a public hearing on Tuesday, May 31.
"That would be for public comment. It is not a question and answer period," said Madison.
The plan would then be slated for final adoption on Tuesday, June 28.
Park plan proceeds
The supervisors also approved a notice to proceed with work on the proposed West Penn Park East, which is to be located off Route 443, not far from the Schuylkill-Carbon border.
Landis C. Deck and Sons, Bernville, has been awarded the bid for the project in the amount of $129,232.90.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission (ESRC) have informed Rettew that the maximum amount of soft costs which can be funded out of the DCNR grant is 15 percent of the construction costs.
Because of this, Madison said an additional construction cost of approximately $1,200 is needed the maximize the total $150,000 grant.
Former Supervisor Ernest Deem questioned from where any additional money would come. Akins said there is money budgeted in the recreation fund. Money could also be taken out of the general fund if necessary.
"I have made this my concern to keep this number down," said Akins, who is a former ESRC chairman and current member.
"I think we need money to fix our roads and not to develop a swamp," said Deem, who has criticized the park's location in the past.
Deem also questioned whether the township owns the right of way to the park and was told it does. He mentioned that a pipe bridge to the property needs to be replaced.
In other park news, the board approved the purchase of mulch for West Penn Park from Mahantongo Enterprises at a cost of $1,800, with $1,218 taken from the land development fund and the balance from the Millhead Road subdivision fund.
Marlin Zehner announced that the spring cleanup at the park is scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at 8 a.m., with a rain date of Saturday, April 9.