The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 7, 2014

VIDEO | Engineer quizzed on 8th Ward sewer plan

— An informational meeting Tuesday for neighbors affected by this summer’s 8th Ward sewer project in the Osborne and Franklin streets area quickly expanded, as audience members peppered engineers about controversial pressure tests and other issues.

Staff from the EADS Group fielded questions from the audience of about 50 people at Bishop McCort Catholic High School’s Guzzi Performing Arts Center.

“We are going to be doing a little bit of damage in the neighborhood right here around the Bishop McCort center,” project manager Tom Kakabar of EADS said.

Specifically, the $2.9 million Johnstown Redevelopment Authority’s sewer main replacement will install about 6,700 feet of sewer main lines along Franklin, Osborne and Rose streets and McKinley Avenue, beginning June 9 after McCort’s school year ends, Kakabar said.  

Osborne Street will be closed from the railroad crossing to just below Franklin Street from June 9 until mid-August, when work will begin moving up McKinley Avenue one block at a time, and then onto Rose and Franklin streets to the Southmont Boulevard intersection.

But as Kakabar explained the project, he and other EADS representatives paused to field a variety of questions about sewer requirements instituted for city homes. EADS also serves as the the city’s consulting engineer.

Kakabar opened the presentation with an explanation of how the city and the redevelopment authority are working independently and together to address stormwater infiltration that is overloading the authority-owned Johnstown Regional Sewage system and its treatment plant at Dornick Point. Each entity is paying $1,000 a month in fines for overloads that discharge raw sewage into area streams, Kakabar explained.

Under an agreement the city and authority have made with the state, if the problem isn’t fixed by 2022, that number would multiply, he said.

Bernie Krcha of Osborne Street asked why Johnstown residents seem to be bearing the burden for a sewer system that serves 20 other municipalities.

“What are you going to do if they don’t participate in Westmont, for example?” Krcha said. “Is there going to be action taken to make sure those municipalities are doing their fair share?”

The redevelopment authority has no police powers, Kakabar said, but it has placed monitors to measure each municipality’s sewer flow rates after major storms and shared those reports with the Department of Environmental Protection.

“I don’t want to say we are snitching,” Kakabar said. “The state agency is the agency we expect to take action.”

Another solution would be to build a larger sewage treatment plant in a different location to handle all the flow, Steve Sewalk of EADS said. The plant’s estimated price tag of $600 million, plus the cost of lines connecting it to the existing system, would add about $125 a month to every sewer bill, he said.

“Over 10 years, that’s $15,000, as compared to you having to bite the bullet and fix your laterals up front,” Sewalk said.

Some neighbors raised concerns about the closing of Boyd Avenue’s intersection with McKinley near the railroad crossing. By eliminating access to Osborne Street, residents will have to drive up to Franklin Street and around to Valley Pike to go shopping in Richland, they complained.

They asked if the work could move up a few feet past the tracks to allow the intersection to remain open, but EADS designers explained the job involves drilling under the tracks and a large hole will be opened at the end of Boyd Avenue.

Kakabar’s listing of closures for McKinley Avenue and Akers Street had others worried.

“You’re going to trap us totally in our houses,” one woman said.

McKinley Avenue work won’t begin until Osborne Street has reopened, Kakabar explained. And then it will only be closed for one block at a time.

All the streets damaged by construction will be resurfaced when the work is completed, he said.

Randy Griffith covers Johnstown Redevelopment Authority for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

 

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