North Franklin eyes purchase of Pa. American property

July 10, 2014
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Shown is an old Pennsylvania American Water treatment plant along Franklin Farms Road that North Franklin Township is interested in purchasing. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Employees of Reynolds Brothers of Burgettstown work Thursday to extend a walking trail in North Franklin Township, behind Consol Energy Park. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
North Franklin Township is interested in purchasing this former Pennsylvania American Water reservoir that became a pristine wetlands area off Franklin Farms Road near Washington Crown Center. Order a Print

North Franklin Township is seeking a memorandum of agreement with Pennsylvania American Water Co. for the purchase of nearly 86 acres of property containing some of the most pristine wetlands in the state.

The company and township officials met about the proposal Wednesday, and also agreed to have the land, which contains an old water-treatment building, appraised before the end of the month to meet the requirements of a state grant the township is seeking to assist in the purchase, township solicitor Gary Sweat said.

“We’re interesting in buying, and they’re interested in selling,” Sweat said.

He said the township and its recreation and business improvement authority want to purchase the property along Franklin Farms Road, with a “wish list” that includes relocating the aging municipal building there and extending an existing public trail on neighboring acreage down to the lakes.

Any sales agreement would include an option to not disturb the “flora and fauna” to protect the wetland species, Pennsylvania American water spokeswoman Josephine Posti said Thursday.

Posti said “it’s amazing” how two abandoned reservoirs there transformed into something rare. She also confirmed the company is in preliminary discussions on selling the site to North Franklin, adding no offers were placed on the table.

Township officials have expressed interest for years in purchasing the water company property. The site also has undergone numerous studies, Sweat said.

He said the last engineering report on a site plan in 2012 indicated the property is home to every category of wetlands species known in the Pennsylvania.

“We want to protect it, preserve the natural beauty,” said Sweat, adding just 10 acres of property are able to be developed.

He said it’s possible to construct trails around the lakes and create an access to them for fishing without disturbing wetlands.

Construction, meanwhile, continues through late August on the construction of a trail addition on nearby authority-owned property behind Consol Energy Park. The new trail travels down a hill and between two wetlands that have sprung up around soil retention ponds created for other development in the area.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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