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Build or buy? North Fayette County Municipal Authority mulls options

North Fayette County Municipal Authority agreed Tuesday night to begin negotiations with Coastal Lumber Co. to purchase an additional 58 acres in the Porter Hill area of Dunbar Borough that would be needed to construct a treatment plant or store bulk water.

Bob Softcheck, the authority’s manager, said the authority has not made a decision on which option will be selected.

“We’re still studying our options at this time,” Softcheck said.

Two weeks ago, the authority received cost estimates from Senate Engineering for building a water treatment plant or purchasing treated water from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.

The first option, which is constructing a 12-million-gallon-per-day treatment plant at Porter Hill, would cost an estimated $28.9 million. This option does not include the cost of financing, which would vary depending on the amount of grant money received and the interest rates for loans or bond issues.

The second option calls for the authority to purchase treated water from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County at a cost of $1.15 per 1,000 gallons with a 5-cent increase every five years.

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has indicated in preliminary talks that it would absorb most of the initial construction costs. If future expenses occur through changes in regulations, the cost would be prorated for the North Fayette authority.

When various interest rates are taken into consideration, the cost of buying water from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County appears to be less expensive for the first 20 years, according to information provided by engineers from Senate Engineering.

If a plant is constructed, the average household customer would see their water bills increase by $7.35 per month, officials said. The same customer would see an initial increase of $1.95 per month if North Fayette decides to purchase its water from the Westmoreland authority.

Ken Hillman, engineer for Senate Engineering, said he has contacted Coastal Lumber Co. to schedule a meeting to discuss purchasing the land at Porter Hill.

Hillman said Coastal Lumber Co. purchased 393 acres of land for $440,000 in 2004, according to records at the Fayette County Courthouse.

“They paid a little over $1,000 per acre,” he said. “This would be a very good deal if we could negotiate a similar price with Coastal Lumber.”

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.


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