Waynesburg Borough is surrounded by Franklin Township. This close arrangement, we believe, should encourage officials from both municipalities to cooperate in providing services, any way they can, to lessen the costs to taxpayers.
At last week’s borough council meeting, its members agreed to approach the Franklin Township Sewer Authority to discuss ways each entity could possibly benefit from working more closely together to reduce sewage treatment costs. The idea was brought to the fore as council discussed its plans for a major sewage improvement project.
The borough is required by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to make improvements to its system by 2015. The work will include separating its storm sewers from its sanitary sewers and reducing surface water infiltration into its sanitary sewer system. The project’s cost has been estimated at $4 million. But preliminary design plans presented to council recently by its engineers, Fayette Engineering, put the price tag of repairing the collector system alone at $3.5 million to $3.6 million.
The estimate failed to include the costs, which could be significant, for work that will have to be done at the borough’s treatment plant to keep it in compliance with state regulations.
Councilman Mark Fischer suggested council sit down with the Franklin authority to see if there is any way the two could work together. “It’s ridiculous to have such a duplication of services in this small area,” he said.
In some respects, it is a small area. The treatment plants of the borough and the authority are within a mile of each other as the crow flies. In addition, the Franklin authority now treats sewage from West Waynesburg that it must pump to the other side of the borough to be treated at the authority’s plant. Noting that both Waynesburg and Franklin have separate sewer lines that run along Ten Mile Creek, Fischer said maybe it would be possible for the two to share one line and have it metered to allocate flow and treatment costs.
The borough and sewer authority also might consider connections between their treatment plants. That way, if one plant experiences excessive flow, sewage could be diverted to the other plant for treatment. We don’t know if either of these ideas is feasible.
But nothing is lost in discussing them or any other ways in which the borough and authority might work more closely together to reduce costs. This would not necessarily require a complete merger of the two systems, but a merger should be included as part of the discussion.
Waynesburg and Franklin Township have worked together many times in the past. The two municipalities have shared equipment and jointly bid residential refuse collection, to cite two examples. The scarcity of money flowing to municipalities from Harrisburg in the last few years should be enough of an inducement for such improved cooperation and the cost savings that can come from it.
There are also probably many other ways the two municipalities could work together on projects or programs. It just takes a first step, which council took last week, in agreeing to sit down and talk.