State grant awarded to help prepare for Dunkard Valley authority acquisition

July 17, 2017
Dunkard Valley Joint Municipal Authority

Greene County has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the state’s competitive Community Development Block Grant program that will allow the Dunkard Valley Joint Municipal Authority to replace a water line on Stoney Hill Road in order to prepare for a water authority acquisition.

Replacing the line is an important part of a much large project to allow the relatively small Dunkard Valley system to be acquired by the much larger Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority.

The county applied for the grant on behalf of Monongahela Township. The money will replace a deteriorated line on Stoney Hill Road, which “has been problematic for a number of years,” township Supervisor Bill Monahan.

Though the line replacement is separate from the project to merge the systems, Monahan said, the work is important in that it will help reduce the amount of money that eventually must be requested to accommodate the merger from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as PENNVEST.

“This should drive down the overall costs” for the work that must be done to complete the merger, Monahan said. Constructing a new water line to connect the two water systems and other upgrades was earlier estimated at $14 million.

Dunkard Valley serves about 500 customers in the Greensboro, Glassworks, Penn Pitt, Cabbage Flats and Mapletown areas. The system was constructed in the 1940s by the Duquesne Light Co., which operated the nearby Warwick Mine. Many of the system’s distribution lines date back to the authority’s founding, and in recent years they have been plagued by leaks.

With its small rate base, the authority has limited resources to make needed improvements without increasing rates beyond what its customers can afford.

The system has had problems for many years, county Commissioner Blair Zimmerman said. “It’s 2017 and it’s hard to believe people are still facing major issues with water,” he said.

Addressing the authority’s situation has been a “step-by-step process,” Zimmerman said.

The commissioners earlier awarded the township a $178,607 grant from the county’s annual CDBG allocation to replace the authority’s water meters.

The commissioners also offered a “guarantee” of $281,451 from the county’s Act 13 money to cover the costs of preparing the PENNVEST application. That money will be reimbursed if and when PENNVEST money is awarded for the project to complete the acquisition.

“I anxiously look forward to the day when township residents have a modern, reliable system and water buffalos are a thing of the distant past,” Zimmerman said.

State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, has also supported the effort to address issues related to the antiquated water system.

“The system’s old and deteriorating lines need an upgrade, sooner better than later,” she said in a release announcing the grant award. “This funding has had my steadfast support and advances the upgrade significantly.”

Charles Malory, chairman of the Dunkard Valley board, could be reached Monday for comment.

Tim Faddis, manager of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority, said the authority must submit a PENNVEST application for the project to connect the two systems by Nov. 1. It will know whether it has received an award on Jan. 21.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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