The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

June 25, 2014

Sewer costs hinge on surveys

Income info needed to qualify for block grant

BROOKFIELD — How much a sewer line project along Bedford Road and part of Stewart-Sharon Road would cost hasn’t been determined.

But whatever the cost, if the 39 residents in that area aren’t quick to provide some income information to engineers, their share is likely to double.

Gary Newbrough, project planning coordinator for the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office, said homeowners whose median incomes fall below $33,000 can qualify to have their costs offset by about half.

The tentative summer 2015 project has to be approved by at least 20 homeowners and that decision will be based, at least in part, Newbrough said, on the price.

“And right now, the cost is a gray area. I’m thinking, I’m hoping, estimates are somewhere in the $1 million range. But depending on the rock in the area and other factors, it could be more. I hesitate to even say a figure,” Newbrough said.

It was not mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency that the sewers be installed, but came at the request of residents who petitioned the agency, he said.

Putting the funding together for the sewer lines that would run between 7832 and 7480 Stewart-Sharon Road and also include all of Bedford Road to U.S. Route 82 is the most difficult part, he said.

The area is eligible for up to $600,000 from a Community Development Block Grant. A zero-percent loan for the balance is available through the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund, sponsored by the EPA, Newbrough said.

But most important, he said, is the 50 percent “principal forgiveness” component of that loan. Based on the median income in the area, half of the amount borrowed could be forgiven, meaning that sewer bills would be cut in half.

Using figures he said were merely an example, if the project cost $1 million and half is funded by CDBG money and half is borrowed, repayments would cost each homeowner roughly $50 a month as a sewer bill.

But if residents meet the median income guidelines, those payments would be lowered to $25. “And I don’t want to see anyone pay any more than they have to. But I need that information,” he said.

Newbrough mailed income questionnaires on June 13 to each resident but as of Tuesday had received only 11 responses. Of those, he said, three were filled out incorrectly.

He needs a minimum of 35 residents to respond to qualify.

There are five questions:

• How many people are permanent residents of the address?

• How many people in the home work more than 25 hours a week?

• What is the expected gross household income for 2014?

• How many people in the home are age 65 or older?

• How many people in the home are age 18 or younger?

Timing of the responses is critical, he said, because he has to meet deadlines to apply for both the CDBG grant and the forgiveness loan. He applied for the same funding last year, he said, but was denied because he used census data to determine median incomes for that area.

New guidelines forbid the use of census data, he said.

He would like the questionnaires returned by July 5, Newbrough said.

All of the residents currently use septic systems, he said, and likely many of those are failing.

The county has done six sewer-improvement projects in Brookfield since 2007.

The township is not responsible for any part of the cost, he said. Once the funding is in place and an exact amount owed by residents is determined, a public hearing will be held to get approval.

“They could still turn it down. But I think with the 50 percent forgiveness loan, it would be more likely to go through,” Newbrough said.

Residents with questions can reach him at 330-675-7753.

“But I may ask the trustees to go door to door to get people to respond,” he said.

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