Franklin General Authority moving ahead on projects

The Franklin General Authority has been pushing ahead on several new projects over the last few months, including assembling a committee to inventory the city’s waterlines.

The committee, put together at the end of last year and chaired by authority member John Eckel, is looking at the records of work done on the waterlines in the city to assess the accuracy of the authority’s current waterline maps and update them as needed.

In addition, authority chairman Tim Dunkle said some of the panel members, particularly Fred Leyda, who has spent more than 30 years working in the water system in Franklin, know “a lot about the water system in the city that isn’t necessarily on paper.”

Besides Eckel and Leyda, other panel members are Scott Stoltenberg of the water department, Franklin fire chief Jim Wetzel, and tech resources coordinator Michael Gorman.

“Part of this is wanting to capture that knowledge of the water system,” Dunkle said.

City manager Tracy Jamieson said the committee’s goal is to look at every line in the city and figure out how big it is, what it was made out of, its condition, and its age.

It is being done partly for reasons of fire protection and partly to assist the authority with prioritizing repairs on the lines that break the most or are under roads that are going to be paved.

The committee gave an update at the General Authority’s monthly meeting this week, and the final committee meeting will be at the end of the month.

In other authority business, the panel this week approved the purchase of a new sewer jet for the wastewater department from Bortek Industries Inc. of North Huntingdon in the amount of $570,212.

The old jet has suffered from frequent problems “every time we get it out,” Mike Moore of the wastewater department said.

In January, Franklin utilities coordinator Kurt McFadden said the cost of the new jet had gone up about $5,000. However, this month, Moore noted the company had added another $10,000 to the old sewer truck’s trade-in value, bringing the trade-in value up to about $45,000.

McFadden said last month the old sewer jet had still passed inspection and was good for another year.

The authority is also waiting on delivery of a new dump truck from Kenworth, which McFadden said this week hasn’t been built yet but which they are still hoping to get by April 1.

Waterline projects

In another matter at this week’s meeting, the authority approved in-house waterline repairs for Evergreen Drive and Cedar Street in the amounts of $36,202 and $13,525, respectively.

The authority’s portion of the Cedar Street repair was about half the total amount of $24,318 as the Cedar Street project is being split with Sugarcreek Borough.

Since neither repair was budgeted for in the capital budget, Jamieson told the authority the funding would have to come out of the line maintenance budget.

In January, Josh Kelp from the EADS Group reported that both waterline tie-ins were complete for the 15th Street waterline and pump station project, and he noted that the new 15th Street pump station was scheduled to be delivered in the late summer or early fall of 2023.

Regarding the upcoming waterline replacement on Miller Hill to be done in conjunction with the city’s new storm sewer there, Kelp said Mortimer’s Excavating is anticipating a start date of mid-March for the project.

The waterline replacement is being funded with nearly $200,000 of leftover funds from the PennVEST grant for the legacy waterline project, which was completed last year.

The authority also approved an additional $98,335 payment to Mortimer’s to install a new sanitary sewer line as well as the waterline there.

Kyle Fritz of the EADS Group noted that engineering was complete for a new waterline on Front Street and nearly complete for one along Allegheny Boulevard.

The estimated construction cost for both projects has risen from last month’s estimate — $1.46 million to $1.485 million for Front Street and $1.1 million to $1.5 million for Allegheny Boulevard.

Fritz said the cost increase for the Allegheny Boulevard project was mainly due to making allowances for the possibility of contaminated soils in that area.

“We may need it, we may not,” he said.

At the January meeting, Fritz had noted that PennDOT plans to resurface Route 8 and Front Street in 2026, and if the waterline replacements are complete by then, the General Authority won’t have to put a final coating on the road.

The authority still needs to secure funding for both projects before construction can begin.

The authority also voted at this week’s meeting to remit $49,989.74 in overpaid sewer bills to the Quality Inn and Conference Center at 1411 Liberty St. since the facility had been receiving a double sewer bill since June 2015.

City finance director Harmony Motter said last month that George Singh, the owner and manager of the hotel location, had only caught the discrepancy in January when a new sewer meter had been installed and hadn’t been reading properly; neither the hotel nor the city had noticed before that.

Motter added she had “no idea” how the second sewer bill had appeared, and at this month’s meeting she noted she hadn’t found any evidence in the billing software history of someone going in and making a change at that time.

“It was not caught by any staff, former or current, until George came in and pointed it out,” she said.

In another matter, Moore told council the wastewater department is considering installing additional security cameras at the storage area for its trailers because a trailer had been stolen from the facility in the middle of the afternoon earlier in the month.

“Somebody cut the lock, drove in, and just took off with one of our trailers,” he said.

And the panel approved installing new stainless steel drains at a cost of $8,971 at its building on 3rd Street.