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Duquesne Discusses Water Dept. Sale

City council frustrated with delinquent bills, delays in system repairs

By Tom Leturgey
The Tube City Almanac
October 15, 2023
Posted in: Duquesne News

Duquesne City Council is not happy with the company that has been contracted to fix its municipal pump station project.

The city is concerned that the contractor who bid on the pump station project is “not completing the work in a timely manner that they were contracted to do,” wrote Duquesne City Councilman Aaron Adams in an email.

City officials have been frustrated because the contractor has been slow in programming the new water pump controls for the new pumps to operate.

“We’ve waited long enough,” Adams said during his Water Department report at the October city council meeting. “We keep asking for a schedule.”

Council noted if they don’t find satisfaction soon, they may investigate legal action. Adams says that two water pumps are working, and the warranty clock is running on equipment for two more that are not operational.

Mayor R. Scott Adams noted that he had recently talked to the contractor, but work was not advancing. Solicitor Myron Sainovich said that he would reach out to the company to get an update. Sainovich also suggested getting a Zoom call with himself, Councilman Adams and city Engineer Laura Branthoover. Branthoover said that she has sent a letter to the contractor but has not received a response.

All of this led to the discussion of Duquesne possibly selling off its municipal water department. Councilman Adams said it was his opinion that the city might be better off selling the water system. “We should have sold off the water department and kept the sewage department,” he said.

Especially as the city emerges from Act 47 oversight, there must be ways to change revenue and revenue streams, officials said. Councilman Adams and Mayor Adams both wondered what the water rates would be like for homeowners and other residents as a result if they would be forced to pay an “increase of the burden” on higher rates. Councilman Adams feared that Duquesne would have to raise rates higher than any other entity.”

“We can’t continue to run in a deficit in the water department,” said Mayor Adams. “We need to look at all options.” He added, “We are concerned with [residents'] pocketbooks. We pay out more than we bring in.”

Councilwoman Elaine Washington suggested that the local government “needs to think about everything before selling the water department.” She said council needs to look closely at how it currently spends for the water department.

In related developments, Duquesne received two bids for refuse and recycling service and those costs have increased by huge amounts in every municipality across Western Pennsylvania. Council plans on discussing its options in its next workshop meeting before discussing a potential vote in November.

Tom Leturgey is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh and the editor of KSWA Digest, the online news and features home of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance. His work also appears in The Valley Mirror and other publications.

Originally published October 15, 2023.

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