COG settles sewer expansion rules

The Centre Region Council of Governments capped the year by settling an issue that had dominated meeting time in 2013.

The General Forum — the monthly meeting of all six municipalities — on Tuesday ushered final changes to the process that guides development and public sewer extensions.

COG Executive Director Jim Steff said the issue was discussed at 23 separate meetings in 2013, not counting times it was brought up by the individual municipalities at their own meetings.

“If you recall, last year it was very decisive issue,” Steff said. “Everyone in this room, everyone tried to come up with an agreement that is significantly better than what we have now, an agreement that everyone can live with.

“I commend you,” he said.

Officials suggested that changes were needed to the agreement, first signed in 2006, after a contentious process ensued with a sewer extension request from Calvary Baptist Church last year. The request was denied after Ferguson Township opposed it, but the church appealed to county court and eventually settled with the Council of Governments to proceed with the expansion.

One of the first changes to the process came in June when officials agreed to change from unanimous to supermajority — 5-1 — for the vote required to allow a sewer extension when a request triggers the process to assess a project’s regional impact.

Another change means any approved extension will have to be for a specific project, not a speculative development, and will carry a five-year limit.

“Ferguson insists, if you expand it — it’s going to be project specific — give it a time limit,” outgoing Ferguson Chairman George Pytel previously said. “Because we’ve been burned the last couple of times, with somebody coming in saying, ‘This is what we want’ and, once they got the expansion, they found it was easier to make more money putting something else in.”

Each municipality called an official meeting during a brief recess from the General Forum to take action to adopt the changes. State College had already approved the matter at a meeting Monday.

“It’s not a perfect document, but it’s something 32 people could agree to,” Steff said after the General Forum meeting. “So that’s OK.”

Pytel, who did not seek re-election in Ferguson Township and is leaving the General Forum as vice president, said he was “happy to see it get done before I got out. I was afraid with new people coming in you’d be back (to square one).”

Also at the meeting, Pytel and other departing members of the General Forum were recognized for their work in their communities and the Centre Region.