Cold downtown walk

An arctic cold front moved into the Greater Johnstown area, bringing with it frigid temperatures, high winds and snow, as a lone pedestrian crosses Market Street downtown on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

The next phase of Johnstown’s state-mandated sewer system improvement project is about to take place in the central business district.

On Tuesday, Greater Johnstown Water Authority held a virtual public meeting to provide information about how the work will progress.

The bid base – for upgrades along the Main Street corridor – is scheduled to begin with camera inspections in March and carry on until restoration is finished in September. Two other stages are scheduled to run from August 2021 through April 2022. All phases will include the installation of laterals and trenchless mainlines.

GJWA is operating with a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection consent order to reduce flows to 625 gallons per day per equivalent dwelling unit or less by Dec. 31, 2022.

“It’s very important – based on the authority needing to meet the requirements of the consent order – that we’re under with the DEP,” Michael Kerr, GJWA’s resident manager, said during an interview prior to the public meeting.

“The central business district is really geographically an area that’s larger than just the area immediately around the park.

“There are a lot of structures and a lot of groundwater infiltration that’s coming from that portion of the city. We would not be able to meet our overall flow requirements if we were to not have done this.”

Brandon Palmer, the city’s sewer project manager from The EADS Group, said he understands that “nobody wants to go through the sewer work. It’s not a great thing to have happen. But we have to do it. The water authority is mandated by DEP to complete the work. So we’re just looking for cooperation and communication from all the property owners.”

As part of the project, property owners throughout the city have been required to make sure their private lines comply with pressure testing standards. Owners have until Jan. 1 to get the work done or qualify for a three-month extension by having construction scheduled but not yet complete.

“I am happy with where we are at in regards to construction of the system and meeting the timeline there,” Kerr said.

“I am apprehensive and slightly nervous about meeting the time frame of the flow requirement because we have so many private laterals that have yet to have been pressure tested. If we do not meet the flow requirements at the end of the consent order we’re either going to have to begin to pay the fines or negotiate some kind of extension with the state.”

About a dozen representatives of businesses and organizations in the downtown participated in the public meeting, asking questions about the plan.

“I think communication is going to be so important,” Cambria Regional Chamber President and CEO Amy Bradley said during an interview.

Bradley emphasized the importance of assisting businesses that have been negatively impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“They need to be open and they need to have customers have easy access and that kind of thing,” Bradley said. “I think keeping people informed – both the business owners, but also the public – is going to be really key. Obviously, this is a needed project. It’s not going to last forever. I think if we can really just communicate how it’s going to go and how to go about still visiting and patronizing our businesses it’s going to be really, really important.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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