Bessemer Township looks to raise water, sewer rates

By CHARITY SMITH RAMSAY — Bessemer Township is looking to raise water and sewer rates this summer in order to help finance the township’s 2022 water and sewer line replacement project. “The rates will need to be increased to cover the future payment of the bonds that we are taking out to do those projects,” said Jeff Randall, township supervisor.  The township has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the rate increase on June 14 at 5 p.m.

It will also have a separate public hearing following to discuss grants and loans for the replacement of lead pipe service lines. Randall said the tentative plan for the project is to complete the engineering plan over the summer and have it go up for bid in the winter. He said the project would start next summer.  The township has been under a court order from the state since 2003 to improve its old and outdated sewer system, Randall said. He said this is because there is some overflow. “If we have a quick meltoff of snow or if we have a lot of rain real quick, we do have some water overflow from the sewer system; so we’re under court order to get that corrected and this is working towards that court order,” Randall said. “This will be a major step towards completion of that.” There is no specific date that the township must get the sewer system repaired as long as work continues to repair it, he said, adding that since the township is doing some sewer work, there are some water lines that need to be repaired and replaced in the same area. “The area that we’re doing the sewer work also has the highest amounts of old pipes that need to be taken care of,” Randall said. “We know there’s a couple of galvanized lines in that area that need to be replaced in regards to eliminating lead contaminates.”

Regarding water and sewer rates, the township is proposing a stepped increase starting with the billing cycle that goes out in June. Randall said the exact amount of the increase has not been determined. However, tentatively, he said it is about $7 to $8 per month. “We don’t have it totally narrowed down yet or exactly defined,” Randall said. “Some of it’s in flux, because we’re not sure how much grant and loan we would need for the lead service line replacements.” He said they are working to get it more clearly defined so that the township will have some definitive figures when it approaches the public.

The township is considering hiring a part time ordinance enforcement officer. Randall said this person would be dealing not only with blight, but with zoning, and ordinance enforcement. He said the township is researching where the funds will come from for the officer, and what the person’s job description will be. “There are some (blight issues) that are extreme in the township,” said Randall. “Everybody has it. It is not something that is unique to Bessemer Township, but it is something that needs to be addressed.” Randall said he is the enforcement officer right now, but with all the projects the township has coming up, he said he just does not have the time to devote to the blight issues. “I certainly need help with that,” he said.

In other action, the board also:

—Approved a contract and employment agreement for the new accessor, Melissa Prisbe. Prisbe replaced Roman Tauer, who retired at the beginning of April.

—Approved a book walk to be placed along the walking trail in Ramsay Park.

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