Mansfield borough council hears about possible regional municipal authority

MANSFIELD – Mansfield Borough Council heard from Bob Wood, representing the Betterment Organization of Mansfield, and attorney Chris Lantz, for the multi-municipal Water Task Force, about the possibility of forming a regional water authority during their Wednesday meeting.

Lantz and Wood summarized the work the organization has done over the past 18 months.

“The borough;Richmond, Covington (and) townships; Mansfield University and Blossburg formed this entity to try and solve the region’s need for more water,” Wood said.

A report, competed by consultants RETTEW, is finished, and posted on Richmond Township’s website, as well as the county’s.

“It has come to the point where the task force’s job is done. We now need the specific municipalities and organizations to maybe create an entity that qualifies with the state to look for more water,” Wood said. “You can call it a regional authority that can go after grants, low interest loans, funding streams, or and eventually have water that can move north and south in the growth corridor up and down the valley,” he added.

“The university also has indicated their willingness to continue with this effort,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the borough organization, which is commononly called BOOM, formally approved the concept of moving forward with the project.

Lantz, who has working relationships with Blossburg and the townships, said he has set up authorities before and presented sample resolutions to council.

“Based on what the water task force recommended, they suggested the five municipalities consider creating together a joint municipal authority,” he said.

“We may be able to get support from the county commissioners and get some grants with such an entity,” he said.

The way it would work is each municipality would appoint two members to form a ten member board.

“This municipal entity will not own anything, the idea is to get it formed to get seed money and get water up and down the corridor,” he said.

In response to a question from Councilman Bob Strohecker, Lantz said there would be “no cost to the borough.”

“You just get it started and then see where it goes.”

The alternate is businesses that want to come in to the township or borough must drill wells because they can’t get on the public water system, Wood added.

“There was finally a solution in the business on Route 15 south that is bringing in 120 jobs coming when they were able to drill their own well,” Wood said, “but for most this is unacceptable.”

Council president Steve Gee suggested the men meet with other municipalities and then get back to council with the results.

“And then we can move forward,” Gee said.

BOOM also agreed to loan $200,000 to the Grand Canyon Airport Authority for a new commercial hangar to be constructed contingent on them getting about $500,000 in state grant funding.

BOOM also denied a request for $16,000 from the water task force to help fund a multi-municipal strategic plan based on its water report, but supported it in concept and agreed to consider a contribution once the task force gets commitments from other municipalities involved to contribute towards the $35,000 cost for the plan.

In other business, council:

Approved the 2014 proposed amended budget, with final approval next month.

Agreed to donate $1,000 to the chamber of commerce to share the $2,500 cost of putting up and lighting the borough’s snowflake Christmas decorations which stay up until February, highlighting a “winter theme.”

Heard from public works director Shawn Forrest that a tentative agreement has been reached with borough police for a three year contract.

Approved advertising the 2014 real estate tax ordinance at 7.25 mills and the 2014 sewer rate ordinance for approval next month.

Heard from Mayor Tom Wierbowski that the annual Home for the Holidays celebration will be held Dec. 14, with details on the chamber of commerce website.