Dave Quinn (above, left) and Cody Hendricks of Environmental Service Corporation provided an extensive overview of Meshoppen’s water and sewer systems to council on Monday evening and offered their assistance for a number of concerns.
Photo and Story by Rick Hiduk
(As published in the March 8 edition of the Rocket-Courier)
Members of Meshoppen Borough Council fielded comments from professionals on two important issues Monday evening, the town’s water and sewer plants and a community park that every in attendance agreed needs upgrades. Dave Quinn and Cody Hendricks represented Environmental Service Corporation (ESC), the company that helps to maintain the water works, and Christine Dettore spoke on behalf of PA DCNR, one of two entities that have offered grants to the borough for the park next to Meshoppen Creek.
Quinn reported that the water plant will be closer to compliance with DEP regulations after the installation of a three-inch check valve and some new pipes. “The way it is set up, you can’t get a raw water sample from the well,” he explained.
The problem has always existed, he noted, but was let go due to an oversight on DEP’s part. As the agency tightens its regulations, Quinn continued, previous omissions have been recognized and need to be addressed. A new “bug screen” is also needed to keep the water supply safe, and both problems ought to be fixed within the next week or two, he suggested.
Quinn seemed more concerned that a second tank in the sewer system had never been brought on line since the system was installed about nine years ago. While the system “is working well 99 percent of the time,” he explained, the primary tank has been full to overflowing several times during heavy runoff events. The tanks are supposed to be cleaned every five years. Quinn suggested starting up the second tank, so the first tank can be emptied and completely cleaned and any corroded parts recoated.
Finally, Quinn offered to help the borough complete its annual reports on both water and sewer that are required by the state and due by March 31. He acknowledged that the municipality has been using another engineering firm and said he doesn’t mind if they continue to do so. The general consensus of council, however, was that ESC could probably do the job at a lower cost and is more familiar with the operations.
Councilman Mike Voorhees noted that the E1 sewer pumps that handle waste discharge from every property on the system have been burning out more quickly than they should – sometimes lasting no longer than a year. Quinn fielded some technical questions about the pumps and asked Voorhees to make arrangements with him to take a look at some of the units having problems. On a related note, the council agree to spend approximately six thousand dollars to repair five pumps currently out of service.
Little Change in Feelings About Park
DCNR’s Dettore had hoped that a personal visit to the council might serve to help members better understand the relevance of the master site plan they’d approved nearly two years earlier to the application they recently submitted to the Wyoming County Planning Commission for new playground equipment.
“I’m here to make sure that the borough is on schedule to proceed with the master site plan before we discuss plans to get new equipment,” Dettore stated. As soon as a consultant is chosen, “this process can go as fast as the board and the steering committee can move.” She estimated that needed changes to the park and the installation of playground implements could begin as early as next year.
In the meantime, she cautioned, the borough and park committee should hold on to any matching funds and hold off on further improvements, including any upgrades to the baseball field. “It actually hinders development.”
The master site plan, Dettore maintained, is a necessary step toward a significant overhaul of the public green space and opens the door for additional grants from the county and state. In addition to a Small Communities Grant, the first $20,000 of which does not require a match, DCED offers greenways and trails grants that require only a 15 percent match. The master site plan is a hurdle that every municipality must endure to get to the next big steps.
“We don’t know what’s going to be in the park,” said council member Doris Picket. “We want to get something there now.”
“If there were stuff down there for the kids to use, I assume they would go there,” said council chairman John Bunnell, who said the board had been waiting for a year for Lynnelle Welch of the Planning Commission to complete the RFP (request for proposals) and scope of proposal documents needed to move forward with the DCNR grant process.
Welch had conducted an unofficial meeting at the borough offices a week prior to help interested parties understand the process and showed secretary Phyllis Adams that the borough had the required documents in hand. Dettore looked over the paperwork in Adams’ possession and confirmed that they were in fact filled out. The blank spaces that were perceived to be an incomplete document were intentionally left blank for the consultant’s notes.
Bunnell politely thanked Dettore for her visit and told her that she was welcome back at any time, In closing, Dettore said that she looked forward to bringing the DCNR secretary for visit when the renovated park was dedicated.
Shortly after her departure, the council reverted to their former consensus that they were distrusting of the grant process and did not really care if the lack of a master site plan prevented them from getting future grants.
“I think we would have been better off to raise our own money and do our own thing,” said Bunnell.
Dick Salsman, who has been working with council member Herb Bevan on plans to improve the ball park indicated that he has the materials and resources lined up to start the work as soon as possible. Bunnell argued that improvements to the baseball park were no different than installing playground equipment, according to Dettore.
Bunnell also criticized Welch and the Planning Commission for recommending that the $5,000 Marcellus Legacy Fund Mini Grant that they had applied for the purchase of playground equipment be put towards the cost of the master site plan. “Switching that after the application was made doesn’t impress me at all,” Bunnell remarked. “I don’t know how she could stop that midstream.”
“She had already planned to shut it down before it went out,” Meshoppen Community Day founder Cindy Cona said of Welch. Cona had waged a significant social media campaign against Welch, who in turn asked for the opportunity to respond to the accusations at the meeting on Feb. 26 that Cona did not attend.
No official motions were made concerning the park, but Herb Bevan, the only council member who seemed to still support the master site plan, agreed to pull a committee together with Salsman’s help and report back to council next month as to what they feel is the best course of action, all things considered.