The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 7, 2014

Help for homeowners: Banks offering low-interest loans to pay for sewer construction

JOHNSTOWN — Qualifying property owners can now acquire low-interest loans to help pay for construction work related to the large-scale sewer project being done in the Johnstown region.

At least five lending institutions – First National Bank, 1st Summit Bank, Somerset Trust Co., AmeriServ Financial and Northwest Savings Bank – are offering special rates, according to an announcement made by Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic.

“The banks all stepped forward to help our citizens with these low-interest loans,” Janakovic said.

Roberta Lohr, senior vice president of marketing at Somerset Trust, added, “We realize the citizens, especially in this area, need to deal with doing infrastructure and we all need to help the community grow. If our bank can help people make it less painful for them, that’s what we want to do.”

Rates will vary from bank to bank, depending on credit ratings, amount of money needed, length of term, etc. It appears rates below 2 percent might be available to some applicants.

Janakovic said the city does not specifically endorse any of the plans, but encourages residents to explore their options.

“We feel it’s a good thing to give a special rate,” said Jeffry D. Cramer, an executive vice president at 1st Summit.

Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is attempting to eliminate all sanitary sewer overflows from its system that feeds into the Dornick Point plant, as required by the state Department of Environmental Protection. All 20 municipalities in the system are developing their own plans for handling the issue.

The city entered into its own consent agreement with the DEP to eliminate its sanitary sewer overflows by Dec. 31, 2022, or face the possibility of huge fines. After considering several options, including building holding tanks or expanding the Dornick facility, Johnstown opted for a two-pronged approach: install new mainlines and  require all property owners to have systems in place that can pass an air pressure test.

DEP’s consent order only required lines to pass less-forceful and less-accurate smoke and/or dye tests, which many properties could do.

However, most older systems, especially those with terra cotta pipes, will not pass a pressure test without having some construction work done. The city’s engineering firm, The EADS Group, says the average cost is between $2,500 and $3,000, based on a survey of local contractors. Estimates in excess of $10,000 have been reported. The prices vary depending on the amount of excavation, line installation and remodeling needed.

“We realize that the sewage upgrade costs may be a financial burden to property owners in Johnstown, and we want to assist by offering a convenient and affordable solution,” said Madonna Miller, a senior vice president and market manager at First National Bank.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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