Freeport is seeking more subsidies for a new sewage treatment plant to reduce consumer bills

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Freeport continues to seek additional funding for a proposed $16.9 million wastewater treatment plant.

In January, the borough received a state grant of $11 million. But officials are looking for more funding sources to avoid a bank loan to fund the remaining $5.9 million.

A borough analysis in February determined that if the borough took out a $5.9 million loan at 3.18% interest for 20 years, monthly customer bills would roughly double.

The average customer would pay $85.42 per month, or $36.41 for sewage use and $49.01 for debt service.

This new sewer rate is too high, at $15 a month, according to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Affordability Index. Although the borough is not bound by the index, it wants to keep rate increases close to it, council chairman Clint Warnock said.

“We are still trying to secure additional grants and other funds,” he said. “However, our best bet is to try to hit the affordability index through longer finance terms or find a lending institution to give us a lower rate.”

Several borough officials plan to meet with state officials on March 23 to try to identify other sources of funding to reduce monthly costs.

Mayor Jim Swartz is talking to federal lawmakers about getting more grants or a low-interest loan.

“I don’t want to burden taxpayers with $70 and $80 bills with all the other taxes and gas prices today,” he said. “They are touched enough.”

Warnock said Friday he hoped to resolve funding issues by the end of April.

As the council hammers out the details of the massive sewer project, Warnock asked Kevin Creagh of KLH Engineering to design the plant that could still operate when the Allegheny River reaches a flood stage of 26ft.

During the floods, the backflow of sewage enters the basements of the inhabitants in the lower part of the city, near the river.

The current sewage treatment plant, built in 1964, is unable to handle all of the materials sent to it, with raw sewage flowing into Buffalo Creek near its junction with the Allegheny River.

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