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Income surveys still needed in Hooversville

January 24, 2019

Some Hooversville Borough residents may force a water rate increase by failing to fill out income surveys to obtain grant money for a three-party water project.

Council members said they’ve received seven more economic surveys from residents but still need more to apply for a Community Development Block Grant with help from the Somerset County Redevelopment Authority. 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.

Council President Ken Karashowsky said borough representatives, including himself, will be conducting another door-to-door campaign to encourage more residents 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.”

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.

Steve Spochart, redevelopment authority executive director, said the authority has received 92 surveys so far and still requires 79 to reach the minimum number required. Spochart added that the more the borough educates residents about the project, the higher success it may have dealing with rumors floating around the borough.

“We’ve heard multiple things, from ‘Oh, our water rates will be through the roof’ and all this other stuff,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone, and what I tell people is we are just gathering information.”

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.

Karashowsky said EADS Group engineers have already finished using drones to map out the borough and potential routes for the interconnect.

“(EADS) is moving ahead with everything, and they are working the permits right now,” he said.

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. In a telephone call with the Daily American, general authority solicitor Michael Barbera said there are parts of three-way agreement that need to be worked out.

“The rates, for instance, will have to be reflective of whatever rates are in effect at the time,” he said. “Whatever the rates might be in September 2019, or whatever the time period is, will be reflected in the agreement.”

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.

Karashowsky said the main thing the borough needs to do is finalize the contract and finish the engineering requirements.

“We have to accomplish that now that we are moving ahead with the project, because that definitely has to be done before we can apply for funds,” he said.

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

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