ADAMS TWP — The Water Authority of Adams Township has enacted a solution for the controversial $35 debt service fee added to the bills of those along a recent waterline extension project.
Matthew Cranmer, manager of the authority, said on Thursday the authority board accepted a fee schedule proposed by the Adams Township supervisors that lowers the much-maligned fee to $20 if 31 to 40 residents tap in, $10 if 41 to 50 residents tap in, and eliminates the fee if 51 or more residents tap in.
There are 72 homes along the line extension.
The issue began when residents of Sturbridge Lane off Callery Road asked supervisors last year for help in convincing the water authority to extend a water line to their neighborhood of 27 homes, which had failing or insufficient water wells. Supervisors did so, and the authority agreed to extend the line from Myoma Road to Sturbridge Lane and a few homes farther down Callery Road. Cost was estimated at $300,00 to $400,000.
The authority board then decided to continue the extension into Callery, which would offer water to a total of 72 customers and raise the project’s cost to an estimated $1 million. The project ended up costing $800,000.
Because no developer was funding the project, which Cranmer said is what normally prompts an expansion, the authority had to come up with the money to pay back the 15-year loan. The authority decided to add a $35 debt service fee to the monthly bills of customers on the extension project, which infuriated the Sturbridge Lane customers.
Several contentious meetings between the authority and supervisors ensued.
Supervisor Russ Ford strenuously opposed the fee while supervisors chairman Donald Aiken told the residents that $35 is a small price to pay for a reliable source of water.
Cranmer said Ford proposed the fee schedule in July, and the authority reluctantly approved it at that time.
Cranmer said 16 residents along the extension have tapped in so far, and two more have paid their $2,650 tap fees but not yet tapped in. He said the authority is using money from its fund balance to pay on the project’s loan in the absence of more customers.
Regarding the claim by Sturbridge residents that they only asked for an extension to their street and should not have to pay a fee to fund the larger project, Cranmer said more customers along the extension past Sturbridge Lane and into Callery were interested in service than in the Sturbridge plan.
He said a survey sent to the potential customers along the extension into Callery revealed that of the 72 homes, 28 were interested in tapping in and receiving public water service, 17 said no, and 20 were undecided. Cranmer said 65 residents responded to the survey.
“We felt it would be beneficial to everyone to go ahead and do the entire the project,” Cranmer said.
He said even though Sturbridge Lane residents voiced a dire need for public water service, only one home on Sturbridge Lane has tapped in.
Marcie Papik, the lone resident on Sturbridge Lane who has tapped in, said her neighbors are disputing the fee by not tapping in. She said the authority would earn enough to pay on the loan if they removed the fee, because more people would tap in.
Papik was without water at her home and had no choice but to tap in as soon as the new waterline was available in June.
Cranmer said the term of the loan is 15 years.
“Obviously all of these individuals (who tapped in) have access to safe, reliable drinking water and fire protection, which they didn’t have before,” Cranmer said. “We are still happy to provide service even though some may not appreciate it. Overall, it’s a benefit to the community.”
Papik said her bill would have been $65 per month, but because of the fee, is now $95 to $100.
She said the authority simply didn’t want to spend the money in the general fund on the project, and is foisting its financial responsibility on residents.