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January 8, 2013

Official: Benefits will flow from water work

WATKINS — If all goes as planned, by the time winter breaks a backup water system will be in place for the tiny northern Cambria County town of Watkins.

The project has the potential to help a number of other communities, a local official said.

Construction of a nearly mile-long, 8-inch water transmission line linking the Spangler Municipal Authority’s water system with Watkins is about

50 precent complete, said Richard Mulhollen, president of the Watkins Municipal Authority.

“With the interconnect, there will be backups for many communities,” Mulhollen said. “We have been working for many years toward a link between the two systems, as we were required by the state to have a backup water supply.”

The communities of Carrolltown, Bakerton, Barnes, Watkins, Spangler and Barnesboro will benefit through the potential of a backup water system, Mulhollen said.

By extending the line from Spangler, about 20 homes – many of which now have substandard water sources – will be hooked onto the municipal system, said Larry Custer, executive director of the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority.

“The primary purpose of the line was to provide a backup supply of potable water to the Watkins Municipal Authority as required by the (state) Department of Environmental Protection,” Custer said.

Using the Community Development Block Grant funds awarded to the county, the redevelopment authority has come up with about $400,000 over the past four years to pay for engineering of the line and more recently, the $374,000 in construction costs.

Dave Roman Excavating Inc., of Reynoldsville, Jefferson County, is installing the line. It’s expected the work will be finished in a month or two.

With the costs of the line being paid entirely with grant money, the backup system won’t increase customer fees, Mulhollen said.

One of the smallest water systems in the region, Watkins serves 80 customers. The system already has one of the highest rates in Cambria County at about $50 a month, Custer said.

But Mulhollen said that while a monthly bill can reach $50, that is only if a home uses an above-average amount of water.

Under the current fee schedule, Watkins customers pay a flat fee of $26 per month plus $8 per thousand gallons of water used. He estimated the rates range from $35 to $50 a month.

Countywide, the average customer on a municipal water system pays $28 to $30 per month for a basic rate of about 2,000 gallons, Custer said.

The Watkins authority purchases its water from the West Carroll Township Water and Sewer Authority.

Mulhollen said West Carroll authority customers pay a flat fee of $28 per month and $8 for every thousand gallons of water used.

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