FORTY FORT – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a $3.5 million, low-interest loan for Forty Fort to replace 30,000 feet of aging sewer pipe and 120 manholes.
Borough Council President Joe Chacke said the borough has been looking for funding sources for the project and contacted the USDA seeking a loan. The department’s Rural Development Office came through with a 40-year-loan with an interest rate of 2.5 percent. The length and rate were something Chacke said could not be passed up.
“You can’t get this rate anywhere else, and you can’t get a 40-year-loan anywhere else,” Chacke said at an announcement made at the borough building Friday morning.
Thomas Williams, a Nanticoke native who serves as director of the USDA Rural Development Office for Pennsylvania, said the project is among 43 projects nationwide being loaned money this week in celebration of Earth Day, which is Monday. It’s the only one in Pennsylvania, he noted.
The borough knew major repairs and replacement of aging pipes would be necessary, said Chacke, and in 2010 adopted a 2011 budget that included large increases for the sewer maintenance rates paid by borough residents and businesses.
Sewer maintenance fees increased from $40 to $125 for residents and to $250 from $80 for businesses. Those increases have been set aside to help pay off this loan, Chacke said. Because of the good loan terms that the borough was able to secure, he said, it’s possible council would look into the rates and potentially lower them.
The work will be put out for bid in a few months and will begin late this summer. The project should last about a year, according to borough engineers.
Sewer pipes throughout the borough either will be replaced or repaired. A borough engineer estimated about 40 percent of the borough’s streets will be impacted.
The project will not only conserve water and improve its quality, said Williams, but also reduce infiltration problems at the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority in Hanover Township, which treats sewage from multiple municipalities, including Forty Fort. He added that broken pipes have been detected and numerous sewer backups into borough homes have been reported.
He lauded borough officials with getting behind the necessary work and seeking a loan instead of continuing to let the problem worsen. He said it ties in perfectly with the meaning of Earth Day, which is conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.
“(The borough has shown) the courage to do this project because it’s what’s right,” said Williams, who resides in Mountain Top.