Supervisors cancel waterline contract in Robinson, Washington County

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Robinson, Washington County, supervisors have canceled a $935,307 contract to extend waterlines on Natures Way and Old Steubenville Pike, and officials have begun negotiating a new plan.

Under an agreement approved in a 2-1 vote Monday, the township and Pennsylvania American Water Co. release each other from the contract, and the water company returns the township’s entire payment of $776,850 by March 31. The water company’s share was $158,457.

Mark Brositz voted no. Chairman Rodger Kendall and vice chairman Stephen Duran voted yes.

Mr. Duran said township officials are negotiating a new contract that would cost less and provide public water to all but one of the 15 homes in the original plan.

“I want to get water to residents; it just has to be done in a responsible manner,” he said.

Mr. Brositz said the original waterline project had been a good use of capital improvement funds and Act 13 Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee money, and no one had objected to the contract until recently.

“I think this whole thing is politically motivated, so that’s why I voted no,” Mr. Brositz said.

Mr. Kendall and Mr. Duran — both Marcellus Shale drilling supporters — joined the board in January. They replaced Brian Coppola and Terrence Love, who with Mr. Brositz had approved the waterline contract in November.

The plan had included installing 7,600 linear feet of 12-inch line on Old Steubenville Pike and 1,000 feet on Natures Way, to serve about 15 residents with well water.

Mr. Duran said a new contract would shorten the Old Steubenville Pike line and likely be funded with a low-interest loan rather than be paid up front.

Robinson had paid $776,850 and was responsible for any overages.

"The cost was very detrimental to the township. It crippled us,” Mr. Duran said. “Hopefully this new cost will come in dramatically lower than what we were paying prior."

Treasurer/secretary Christine Rummell said the township has about $5,000 in the general fund, $16,000 in the capital improvement fund and $500 in the Act 13 natural gas drilling impact fee fund.

The board approved a $50,000 tax anticipation loan to cover costs until tax revenues come in this summer.

Mr. Kendall said when the water company returns the money from the canceled contract, about $398,000 will go back into Robinson’s Act 13 drilling impact fee fund and $105,000 will replenish a legal fund, while the remainder likely will go into the capital improvement fund.

He said a new contract probably would be funded with Act 13 money.

Mr. Brositz opposed the canceled contract's funds being returned to the current board because Mr. Kendall had filed a complaint with the Public Utility Commission saying Robinson should not receive its Act 13 money.

“We wouldn’t even have half of the money we are using for that waterline expansion if our current chairman had his way,” Mr. Brositz said.

Mr. Kendall, who holds a drilling lease with Range Resources, had requested in August 2012 that the commission review Robinson’s gas well regulations and withhold gas well impact fee revenue, as outlined in Act 13.

Waterline projects, road maintenance, public safety and infrastructure improvement are some of the permitted uses of Act 13 money, which is collected from drillers and distributed among counties and municipalities.

“With 22 wells in the township, bringing water to people is a great, great use of that impact fee money,” Mr. Brositz said.

Mr. Kendall said the board is developing a capital improvement plan in order to seek grants for waterline extensions and other projects.

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:

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