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Jackson Township signs on to new stormwater authority

From left, Jackson Township supervisors Jay Grinnell and Allan Osterwise and solicitor Anthony Cosgrove deliberate during a board of supervisors meeting on Thursday night, June 20. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

JACKSON TWP — Supervisors agreed during a meeting Thursday, June 20, to begin filing articles of incorporation for a new Southwest Butler Stormwater Authority which would manage the stormwater responsibilities of four municipalities in Butler County.

The other three partners in the authority are Harmony, Evans City and Zelienople.

This makes Jackson Township the third municipality to agree to form the stormwater authority. Harmony and Evans City have already voted to join the authority. Zelienople’s agreement is outstanding.

Talks began in 2019, shortly after a run of costly flooding that summer that struck the southwestern part of the county. Originally, the talks involved 10 municipalities, including Adams, Cranberry, Forward, Lancaster and Penn Townships, as well as the borough of Seven Fields.

Chris Rearick, Jackson Township’s manger, said the four municipalities involved are well-positioned to do so.

“Geographically, it makes sense, and the will existed within those municipalities to take that step,” Rearick said.

The need for a joint municipal stormwater group was made even more clear this April, after destructive floods struck the county twice in less than two weeks.

Rearick said forming a municipal authority would be mutually beneficial to all parties.

“The benefits are to be able to collaborate directly on projects and achieve an economy of scale,” Rearick said. “Four municipalities together would be capable of undertaking larger projects at one point in time. Funded separately, it would take much longer to get to those projects.”

Under the proposed articles of incorporation, each municipality would retain ownership of its stormwater infrastructure. However, the authority would be responsible for collecting fees and managing stormwater improvement projects.

These improvements would be funded largely by stormwater fees charged by the authority, which function similarly to water and sewer fees. These are separate from taxes and are also charged to tax-exempt developed properties.

“While the authority has rights to potentially bid projects, fund them and institute improvements, the actual ownership of the infrastructure remains that of each respective municipality,” Rearick said.

According to a page regarding the stormwater authority on the official Evans City website, the authority would consist of an appointed representative from each of the four municipalities, along with a fifth “at-large” member.

After all four members agree to form the authority, Rearick said the next step is for them to begin implementing a capital improvement plan.

“This is a major step, but it's something I think we've had consistent consensus on and enthusiasm behind,” Rearick said. “The hope is that we can cooperatively, as municipalities, come to a consensus on the capital improvement plan.”

Rearick said he expects the stormwater authority to start operating “within two to three months” once all four parties agree to join.

This story was updated at June 24 to reflect that Chris Rearick is township manger. A previous version of this story incorrectly said he was the township engineer.

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