SHENANGO TOWNSHIP – After more than a year of delays, Shenango Township is ready to begin a sewer project that will cost an estimated $18 million.

The township cleared its last hurdle earlier this week by securing a waiver from Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The general contractor, Rudzik Excavating of Struthers, Ohio, must comply with guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those orders includes keeping workers at least 6 feet away from one another.

Completion of the project falls under the Shenango Township Municipal Authority.

“We’re ready to start,’’ said Tom Hubert, a member of the authority who also serves as chairman of the township’s supervisors. “Rudzik has been surveying the ground, and they should be ready to put a shovel in the ground in a week or two.’’

A Rudzik spokesman didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon. But Hubert said the contractor has given notice to affected residents that it will begin accessing property rights-of-way that may call for tree removal to install sewer lines.

Hubert said the contractor will notify homeowners when the project will be coming their way. The contractors will install 12 miles of lines in the first phase, followed by another 5 miles in the with the second phase.

“We expect the second phase of the project to go out to bid this summer,’’ he said. “And hopefully we plan to begin that part of the project later this year.’’

Residents along both sections of the project are required to tap into the sewer system, which will cost about $2,950, Hubert said. The residents also have to pay for a sewer line running from the main to the homes. 

Homeowners are required to complete their connections within 60 to 90 days after the main sewer line has been placed along their property.

“We’re looking to create a list of certified contractors who homeowners can hire for the job,’’ Hubert said.

The authority has arranged to have low-interest loans available for homeowners to pay their portion of the project. Hubert didn’t immediately have detailed information about the loans, but said residents could pick up forms at the township’s temporary office in West Middlesex or have them mailed to their home.

Shenango Township is undergoing a major $2.35 million expansion and renovation of its municipal building to be completed later this year. The township’s temporary office is on Carbaugh Steet in West Middlesex behind Shenango Steel Buildings.

Hubert acknowledged those already connected to the township’s sewer system will see a rate increase.

The current monthly sewer bill runs around $57, and the authority has been using an $80 figure, a 40 percent increase, for new bills. 

“But we’re trying to get it lower than that,’’ Hubert said. “We originally started with a monthly figure of $130, then we got it down to under $100 and now we’re trying to get it below $80.’’

As part of the second phase of the project, he said the authority is hoping to get a low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, better known as PennVEST. The state agency funds community utility projects such as sewers and water systems. The authority got a PennVEST grant and loan for the project’s first phase.

The authority is required to upgrade its sewer system under a consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We have no choice, we have to do this,’’ Hubert said.

The project has experienced delays, with bids that came in higher than expected, changes in the timelines and securing funding.

Under the final phase of the project, the authority has to upgrade the treatment plant that treats wastewater from both the township and West Middlesex borough. Estimates for the treatment plant project have been about $1 million. 

But the township municipal authority and officials from West Middlesex are involved in a dispute over how much of that expense each party is responsible for paying. Hubert said representatives of the two municipalities have not yet begun discussions on dividing the cost.

“We’re waiting to hear from them,’’ he said.

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