COAL TOWNSHIP - Coal Township commissioners delayed taking action Thursday night to amend a proposed ordinance for street excavations so they can research the issue further and meet with utilities that will be greatly affected by the proposed amendments.

"We want to come up with a viable solution that will help the citizens of Coal Township," George Zalar said. "The ordinance covering excavations to streets and sidewalks is old and needs to be revised, but we don't want our streets destroyed. We need to research the issue and meet with representatives from the gas company, water company and sewer authority before we vote on this."

Voting to approve Zalar's recommendation to table the ordinance were Commissioners Gene Welsh, Bernie Rumberger, Craig Fetterman and Jerry Waugh.

Solicitor Vince Rovito said, "We basically want to force the utilities to work together and make sure all of us are on the same page."

UGI

Michael Love, vice president of government affairs for UGI Utilities, told the commissioners he agreed with their decision to table the ordinance and desire to work together with all the utilities.

"We welcome the ordinance and want to work with you," said Love, who with UGI operations supervisor Dave Lichtel, represented the only utility at the meeting.

Love said his company can save residents between $1,200 and $1,500 per year by converting from coal or oil to gas. "We've had a record number of conversions and just want an opportunity to explain our rates in the future," he said. "UGI wants to make sure you have all the facts before making a decision on the ordinance."

Love said he will provide Coal Township officials an outline of UGI projects that are planned for the next three to five years so they know what areas of the township will undergo excavation by the gas company.

Love and Lichtel told the commissioners they have been very accommodating in the past and look forward to working with them for the betterment of all parties.

President Fetterman, who thanked Love and Lichtel for attending the meeting, added, "We want to make sure the ordinance is right."

New ordinance

Last month, the commissioners agreed to advertise a revamped ordinance proposal for street excavations. According to the proposed ordinance, if an aggregate minimum of 10 percent of one township block is disturbed over a 12-month period, those responsible would be required to resurface the entire road between intersections.

That cost would be shared by more than one entity if they dig up roadway in the same area. For example, if a gas company were to dig up 8 percent on one block and a water company 4 percent, each utility's share of the repaving cost would be proportionate to the amount of roadway they disturbed.

A prior version of the proposed ordinance simply required 10 percent disturbance and lacked language for aggregation or time frame. Commissioners believed it allowed too much wiggle room to bypass the proposed regulation and tabled it in April for revision. The revamped version was approved at a May meeting.

The current ordinance mandates roadway resurfacing when 33 percent of a township block is disturbed.

Sewer authority

Shamokin-Coal Township Joint Sewer Authority is currently under federal mandate to overhaul its system in an effort to reduce pollutants from reaching the Chesapeake Bay via the Susquehanna River. The plan was to install brand new sewer lines throughout its territory. However, since Coal Township announced its intent to adopt the excavating ordinance, which would increase costs on a plan that already is estimated at $161 million, the sewer authority is considering alternatives.

Welsh urged residents to be patient and cooperative with current paving projects in the west end of the township. The commissioner, who noted more streets have been paved in recent years, said, "It's a temporary inconvenience for a permanent solution."

Welsh said breakdowns with machinery and an abundance of rain have caused delays in the project, particularly on West Walnut and West Arch streets. He said the work on West Arch Street should be completed in one or two weeks.

In other business

The board amended a zoning ordinance that changes the swimming pool fencing requirements from 6 feet to 4 feet in accordance with the State Uniform Construction Code.

Commissioners allocated its annual local matching funds of $2,102 to the Lower Anthracite Transit System (LATS) and adopted a resolution accepting construction plans for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) access road and authorizing the preparation of an ordinance to officially accept the deed of dedication for the road.

Waugh said the Coal Township business office will be renovated for security and efficiency reasons. He said work, which is scheduled begin today and be completed early next week, includes the installation of a window, door and wall.

The commissioners agreed with Zalar's recommendation to once again seek state and federal funding to rectify problems with the creek channels in Ranshaw and Tharptown.

The board approved a request by Citizens for a Better Community to sponsor its annual fireworks display at 9:40 p.m. Saturday, July 6.

Waugh announced the Lower Anthracite Regional Recreation Committee will sponsor its third annual golf tournament Saturday, July 13, with a 9 a.m. shotgun start, at Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Course.

No citizens offered input at a public hearing for the Home Investment Partnership Housing Grant Program.

Greg Schoffler, an official with Northumberland County Housing Authority, said grants up to $20,000 are available under the program to very low- and low-to-moderate-income residents. This year, residents in the east end of the township may be eligible for funding to repair their homes under the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program.