Hooversville remains halfway to income survey goal

March 1, 2019

A month after Hooversville officials asked residents to fill out income surveys needed to obtain money for a three-way water project, no one has answered the call.

A Somerset County Redevelopment Authority official reported that the authority has received 92 economic surveys and requires 79 more to reach the minimum number required to apply for a Community Development Block Grant. The authority mailed out 214 surveys and needs at least 171 returned to potentially qualify for aid.

Under the proposed deal, the Somerset County General Authority would sell Quemahoning Reservoir water to the borough through the Conemaugh Township Municipal Authority’s water lines.

Steve Spochart, redevelopment authority executive director, said that while there is no deadline to turn in surveys, state officials are claiming they need up-to-date surveys for a project expected to be completed in five years.

“At some point, if it goes any longer we’re going to determine if we should start over again, which I’d rather not do,” he said.

The borough needs the completed surveys to obtain a block grant for the estimated $1,792,400 interconnection project. The borough can apply for up to $1 million in funds. The surveys are designed to show financial need among low- to moderate-income households, and do not ask residents for their actual household income.

This is the second time the borough has distributed surveys. In April 2017 the redevelopment authority mailed 215 surveys, but received only 107 in return.

Borough secretary Robin Stufft said borough officials were planning to conduct another door-to-door campaign to encourage more residents to fill out surveys. The Daily American reached out to borough officials, but did not hear back from them Thursday evening.

In January, council President Ken Karashowsky said residents may be inadvertently increasing their water rates by failing to fill out the surveys.

“We have sent letters to every resident of the borough explaining what has been going on — that yes, we are moving ahead with this project and it was to your benefit to fill these surveys out,” he said. “By doing that (residents) may be helping to control their water rates.”

“I think there’s still time to work with, but if a year from today we’re still waiting on surveys, we are really pushing it,” he said.

In November, door-to-door volunteers told the Daily American that many residents would not fill out the surveys. While some residents did not want to disclose their incomes, others thought the borough didn’t “have the ambition” to go forward with the project.

Borough officials still need a finalized agreement with the general authority and the municipal authority to apply for Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority loans and grants. Under the current draft, the township would charge the borough 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of water, and the general authority would charge the borough $2.79 per thousand. According to county officials, most municipalities using the general authority’s line are charged $2.76 per 1,000 gallons.

A copy of the economic survey can be found online at www.dailyamerican.com.