Westmont Borough’s sewer project is resuming with a new contractor as the borough council seeks to wrestle $5 million from its previous contractor.
It’s been more than a year since the project was halted, borough councilman Gordon Smith said.
“In June of 2018, the contractor walked off the job because of a dispute, and since then we have not been able to move forward with any construction that’s mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection,” Smith said.
The borough council updated the public on the project Tuesday during a regular meeting at the Westmont Municipal Building.
The borough’s new contractor was approved by the state Tuesday, Smith said. Arbitration against the previous contractor – IWPC – is slated for next week. The borough is represented by the law firm K&L Gates.
Just as all other municipalities connected to the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority-owned Dornick Point Sewage Treatment Plant, Westmont had entered into a consent order years ago with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to reduce inflow and infiltration from the sanitary sewer lines or face the possibility of large fines.
A contract dispute with the borough’s contractor interrupted that mandated work, according to Smith.
“We have gone through a process of rebidding the remaining part of the contract and selected a new contractor, the low bidder – Snyder Environmental Services – and they received today state approval to finish the project,” Smith said.
The fee for arbitration against the previous contractor is more than $120,000 to the borough, Smith said, but millions of dollars are at issue.
“We have a claim against the former contractor for about $5 million. So we will see what happens, whether we get any of it or all of it, I don’t know,” Smith said.
Hearings are scheduled Monday and Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Smith said, with subsequent hearings to take place in early March.
Smith said he expects the process will end in April.
“Normally in a lawsuit you go before a judge,” he said. “But the pool of arbitrators set to decide the case includes a lawyer, an engineer and a contractor,” Smith said. “They will much better understand the issues we are wrestling with.”
In other business during the meeting, the council unanimously approved a change to opening and closing hours for the Westmont Municipal Building, 1000 Luzerne St.
Current hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Starting next week, hours will be from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but borough offices will only see customers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“There is administrative work that employees need to handle,” borough solicitor Robert Shahade said. “The borough employees are asking for an uninterrupted time to get done what they need to get done, including rolling out new utility software.”