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Timeline Proposed For Submission of Newtown's Sewer Plan

Newtown Township Manager Mike Trio provided an update on the current status of the Act 537 Plan and its possible timeline for submission to the Department of Environmental Protection.

NEWTOWN SQUARE–At a meeting on Oct. 11, Mike Trio, township manager, provided another update on the status of the township's Act 537 Plan and a proposed completion timeline for the plan.

To recap, Trio said the supervisors had placed all special studies attached with the sewer plan in order to push forward the finalization of the Act 537 Plan.

In August, the supervisors as a third-party engineer to "help address the extensive public comment and give the township an unbiased review of the plan prepared by Kelly & Close Engineers," stated Trio at the meeting last week.

Trio said McCombie finished his review of the plan on Aug. 31, in which he began preparing a supplement to the plan.

"This process is currently proceeding," said Trio. "And we project it will be completed in early December 2011."

The plan will then be released to the public in which a 30-day public comment period will take place. Once the public comments and issues are addressed, the Board of Supervisors will then be able to act upon approving the plan in February or March of 2012, explained Trio.

After the supervisors have approved the plan, the plan would then be sent to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for final review and approval. In addition, Trio said if the DEP approves the plan in the anticipated timeline, they would approve the plan in May or June of 2012.

"Although we do not have a crystal ball, the township Board of Supervisors would like to take the time to make the best efforts to minimize any exposure to future appeals and investigate all avenues to prevent this from occurring in the future," said Trio.

McCombie has been paid the $2,000 for his services reviewing the plan as approved by the supervisors. Trio said his contract will have to be reevaluated to determine his rate moving forward to maintain his contract.

Supervisor George Wood addressed the issue of how residents would pay for the new sewer system and the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of the system.

"I know there's been concerns with–before my time–on how each resident would be assessed, if there was a piggyback for funding, and we want to do all the above," responded Trio. "We're not trying to back away from any of those provisions that have been discussed. We just want to make sure we have the proper procedure for that because there will be an expense for resident tie-in."

The township will not own any private property and will not own the rights to any private property. In addition, Trio said residents would be able to have access to the main system and would pay their portion share, but alternative financing options will also be available.

But Wood said he was concerned about residents who have "acted responsibly, kept up their systems, put in new systems and then suddenly a year later they're going to have to hook up."

Trio added that there would be clearly defined parameters for residents who would have to tie in to the new system. A suggestion was also made that it may have to be on a case by case basis.

Paul Evans, an Echo Vally resident, also touched upon what Wood stated and said that one of those reasons of requiring a resident to tie in may be financial reasons.

"They spend money on a septic system, they're upset about it, so I think that financing package would be critical to having this push forward," said Evans. "Without that, I think you're going to meet a lot of resistance."

Supervisors Chairman Joseph Catania stated that the financing for the new sewer system has not changed.

Trio said the only difference in the discussion of the financing plan is a clearly defined line of what's private and public. "There will be no township participation in maintenance of private property. Laterals and pumps will be the responsibility of the homeowners."

Patti Wilson, another resident in Echo Valley who had perviously appealed the original plan, shared her displeasure with the proposed timeline of the drafted plan.

"I do have a problem with someone saying the plan is going to go up in March and we're going to have approval in May," said Wilson. "It is unlikely that 60 days is enough time to get approval of a 537 Plan. The last one took months. So, I would rather that we be communicating to people it's going up there, we don't know when it's coming back then to continue to commit to that something is going to happen."

Catania responded that the timeline was a rough estimate and explained that the township is aiming to work on the plan now through those details in order for a shorter process later with DEP.

"Will it happen that way? I don't know," said Catania. "But the process now, there's a lot of detail and time being spent on this plan. That's why we're doing the peer review and try to eliminate those problems or those checks that you get when you submit it later rather than taking care of it now. Will it happen? You might be right, you might be wrong."

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