R.S. signs contract with Chester Water Authority
Anticipated growth could decrease future costs
— The mayor and commissioners have formally entered into an agreement with Chester Water Authority to bring water to the town.
During a special meeting on Wednesday night, the town board formalized the agreement with CWA, adopted a resolution concern-
ing water rate increases, discussed funding sources for the estimated $10 million project and considered various routes to bring the water into town.
As part of the process of connecting to CWA, the town board adopted a resolution spelling out a 10-year schedule of rate increases, which Joe Mason, a financial consultant with Davenport & Company called “a worst case scenario.”
He told the board that rates would have to increase 6 percent next year, 16 percent in 2018 and 2019, 14 percent the next two years and then 5 percent each year from 2022 to 2025. For the average user of 1,000 gallons, this means the rate will increase from the current $9.25 to $21.90 by 2025.
Mason tempered that schedule by adding that with the new water supply, Rising Sun could lift its 10-year-old building moratorium.
“New hook ups are $8,000 each (for water and sewer). A little bit of growth goes a right far distance,” he said,
adding that new customers would share the expense and change that rate schedule.
Brian Leishear, the Rising Sun commissioner in charge of water and sewer, agreed noting that “infrastructure fuels economic development.”
“The picture Joe (Mason) painted for the rates, they’re high, but it’s assuming no more growth and no more grant money,” Leishear said. “We know there’s going to be growth. We know there’s going to be houses. People are ready to put shovels in the ground, but the infrastructure has to be there.”
Commissioner Dave Warnick indicated that the town already has customers waiting to connect to the new water supply, including as many as 14 houses outside town limits.
“These are the Southern States houses,” Warnick Cecil County Councilman Dan Schneckenburger addresses the mayor and commissioners of Rising Sun, congratulating them on entering into an agreement with Chester Water Authority to provide water to the town.
said, referring to a consent decree issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment in 2008 due to high nitrate levels in residential wells on Wilson and Telegraph roads.
Cecil County Councilman
Dan Schneckenburger, gave the mayor and commissioners his support for the project, adding he aims to help the town pare down the bill.
“There is significant interest in this town,” he said. “I’ve had conversations with the governor’s office and several departments, and I am encouraged that we’ll be able to find more grant money.”
Rising Sun has already applied for a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Included in the resolutions passed Wednesday night were refunds and rebates aimed at returning $1.8 million of the costs to the town.
Attorney Michael Klein, legal counsel to the town for the project, said $1.2 million of that represents potential Pennsylvania customers for CWA. The rest is a reimbursement from the authority for a change in the size of the water line from 16-inch mains in Pennsylvania to the 12-inch main in Maryland.
“There’s also restrictions in the agreement that Chester Water cannot use the pipeline to come into Maryland and compete with Rising Sun,” Klein said. “If CWA decides to put in another Maryland line, in the first 10 years, it can’t come within 12 miles of Rising Sun town hall.”
Also introduced at the Wednesday night special meeting were a pair of ordinances to fund the estimated $10 million project. As it did with the wastewater treatment plant, Rising Sun will get a bond anticipation note, similar to a home construction loan, for the construction phase. Jay Gullo, town attorney, said the note would not exceed $12 million. Once completed the note, would be converted to a long-term, low-interest rate USDA loan.
Mason said the town has been given indications that they will get the 40-year loan at 1.625 percent.
“That’s an extra low rate for an extremely long time,” Mason said.
The partnership with CWA has been in the works for several years, ever since Rising Sun first began discussing what to do about its water supply.
The town had numerous options to consider, according to Ryan Flickinger with KCI Engineering. The first option was to do nothing. Also among the options was to connect to nearby towns, drill new wells or connect to CWA. Flickinger said the “do nothing” option and new wells were taken off the table.
“The aquifers the town has to drill into does not have the return,” he explained.
Borrowing from an analogy offered earlier in the meeting by Calvin Bonenberger, town administrator, Flickinger said a bowl only holds a certain amount of water and no amount of straws in the bowl is going to change that.
“You can’t drill five more wells. It doesn’t work like that,” he said, adding that by drilling additional wells, the supply to other wells in the same aquifer is depleted.
CWA currently has a redundancy, which means the town would get its allotted water, Flickinger noted. The authority draws from both the Susquehanna River and Octoraro Reservoir. Under the terms of the agreement, Rising Sun would initially draw 340,000 gallons per day. The quantity could be adjusted every five years with the maximum draught at 1.8 million gallons per day.
Concerns were raised about the amount of pressure on the town’s aging network of underground distribution pipes when the CWA water flows to town. Flickinger said there would be an altitude valve on the water tower to prevent overflow.
“If not that, then there would be a pressure reduction valve to avoid excess pressure coming into town,” he said.
Flickinger also noted that, as the town grows, there would be a need for a second water storage tower.
“Storage is a function of growth,” he said.
The town, at the request of the Community Fire Company of Rising Sun, will also investigate adding fire hydrants to the system.
The board is considering two proposals for the route the water would take once it crosses the Maryland line. One design is a fairly straight shot from the state line along Red Pump Road ending near the Seventh Day Adventist Church on North Walnut Street. The second design takes more turns and ends at the water tower off Colonial Way.
“It has better hydraulics, but there’s more constructions, higher costs and more disturbance in town,” Flickinger said.
Leishear publicly acknowledged the stress that the issue has put him under.
“I worry about not having enough water to meet daily demand,” he said. “What would we do if we have a drought or a leak or if one of our large wells fails? The honest truth is we don’t have enough water and it feels good to say it.”
However, former mayor Robert Fisher repeated his claim that wells are the right direction. In a letter Fisher delivered to town hall Monday, he stated that the cost of the water line was double the town’s estimate, providing water Rising Sun may never need.
“I believe that there is a high probability, that we may never need the extra (water), as we can build 550 units with the existing wells,” the letter read.
After reading the letter into the record, Leishear turned to Flickinger and sought his opinion of Fisher’s claim that four new wells could be drilled for $1.4 million.
“Two construction firms already priced it at over $2 million per well and well house,” Flickinger said, adding. “Four wells is closer to $10 million.”
Echoing a message repeated numerous times at town meetings, Commissioner Joe Shephard said the issue had been studied long enough.
“We’ve gone through tons of studies. We’ve done our due diligence,” he said, adding the water debate had robbed everyone on the board of sleep.
With agreements signed, design and permitting will follow. Rising Sun’s board hopes to have shovels in the ground a year from now.
Michael Klein, legal counsel for Rising Sun for its water and sewer negotiations, explains how the town arrived at its contract with Chester Water Authority.