The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 10, 2013

Sewer work costs causing concerns

JOHNSTOWN — A long-term, large-scale plan to completely update Johnstown’s old and damaged sewer system has created a huge influx of business for companies that install sewer lines.

Prices for the work vary, depending on the contractor, amount of line, excavation and other factors. Costs of several thousand dollars are common. Estimates up to $15,000 have been reported.

On Wednesday, Johnstown City Council members discussed concerns they have heard from residents.

“We’ve increased the demand artificially and the prices are high unless you know somebody,” said Councilman Joseph Taranto.

Owners of properties that fail tests must pay to have new lateral tap-in lines installed.

The state ordered the Johns-

town Redevelopment Authority to address problems in the Johnstown Regional Sewage system that feeds the Dornick Point plant. Council considered three options: building a new treatment plant, putting holding tanks in neighborhoods or replacing deficient lines.

The board approved a plan to replace the primary lines and require property owners to tap into the system with new laterals if necessary.

Since so many property owners are required by law to get the work done, Taranto is concerned about customers being taken advantage of.

He suggested considering penalties for any contractors who gouge customers.

“The question is how do we make that determination?” asked David Andrews, council’s solicitor.

Johnstown itself might not even be able to help with gouging issues if they arise.

“If there’s truly price gouging, the attorney general’s office has a hotline for that. ... The attorney general is supposed to deal with this, not the city of Johnstown,” said City Manager Kristen Denne.

Council discussed several options for getting information to the public about contractors and ways to help people make sure they do not overpay for services.

Residents were encouraged to seek estimates from independent evaluators in order to know approximately how much a job should cost before approaching contractors.

“I think we’re making this complicated,” said Deputy Mayor Frank Janakovic. “Most of the meetings that I’ve attended, people were simply asking is there a list or group that I can pick from or can you recommend? We can’t recommend. But, from what I’m hearing today, we could at least make a list of current contractors, those that are available, with the disclaimer you can do this yourself or contact any other person.”

Denne emphasized one key point to residents who need lines replaced: “The only thing I can say is get more than one quote.”

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