Loyalsock Township supervisors heard the outlines of a proposal to regionalize its sewer system Tuesday night at a public meeting.
The plan, if accepted, will transfer ownership and maintenance of the township's sewer collection infrastructure to the Williamsport Sanitary Authority.
Though regionalization cannot eliminate the debt that will drive future raises in sewer rates, creating a more efficient system should find some cost savings, township Manager Bill Burdett said.
"We've unsuccessfully been trying to negotiate treatment regionalization for five years," Burdett said. "We just underwent an extensive and mandated sewer rehabilitation project that cost residents about $9 million and cost a total of about $29 million the last five years."
Loyalsock contracts with the WSA for treatment, while it runs its own collection operations.
"Loyalsock residents will become customers of the authority, same as on the water side," said Sanitary Authority Executive Director Douglas Keith. "We will establish a rate district to make sure costs incurred by the Loyalsock system are born by Loyalsock customers some areas have more debt, some less, it's unfair to immediately regionalize (costs)."
Under the proposal, sewer assets and liabilities on the township's books essentially will be moved as-is to the WSA, Keith said.
Though the WSA would set rates, instead of the supervisors, under this plan, the costs that customers pay for will remain largely the same.
"We've got $4.3 million to pay this year just on the debt," Keith said. "Then that number's going to go up to $7.1 million Don't get fooled by thinking there's a point where rates are going to stabilize - when the majority of costs are debt service mandated through (state Department of Environmental Protection) and (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) action, there's not a lot we can do about it."
"We have about $40,000 a month we're paying in debt on projects we've done on our own," Burdett said. "We can't cut rates, but there are areas we have identified where we can save money."
Duplication of employees and administrative costs, equipment, and all the time wasted in negotiating treatment agreements, are some areas that could see some cost savings, Burdett said. It is too early to tell any sort of hard number on how much might be saved, he added.
Bill Smith, a township public works employee, asked whether the regionalization will affect property owners who recently have upgraded their sewer laterals.
"I already paid $7,000, and now I don't want a rate increase to go with it," Smith said. "We own the lateral from the curb to the main - I don't want somebody to give away something I own."
"We still have to have our legal people take a look at that," Burdett said.
Any township residents with questions or concerns about the proposal can call Burdett at 323-6151 or Keith at 323-6148.