U-CF talks sewers and budget

Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board members need to consider upgrading the wastewater treatment facilities at Chadds Ford Elementary School. The topic has been under consideration for several years and a final decision is approaching.

The current system was installed in 1964 and treated water is discharged into Ring Run which feeds into the Brandywine Creek. It’s rated to treat 6,000 gallons per day but is currently only treating about 2,000 gallons per day, according to James Whitesel, director of facilities. He presented a contract proposal from Castle Valley Consultants to the board during the Nov. 13 work session.

Whitesel told the directors that there is a high nitrogen content in the discharged water and that the state Department of Environmental Protection wants that to change, even though it renewed the plant's permit last year.

“[DEP] expressed leniency in the renewal given the pandemic and the age of the plant, but that leniency wouldn’t continue given the high nitrogen discharge levels into what they consider a high-priority waterway,” Whitesel said.

He added that the plant is structurally failing and that the integrity of the system is compromised due to age. The plant was expected to function for 40 years, but it’s been in operation for almost 60 years.

“Without a replacement, the failure of the plant is imminent,” he said.

Options other than renovating the current plant — looking to DEP and nearby municipalities to pump waste offsite — have come up short. DEP also rejected a pump and haul application without a long-term plan for offsite treatment.

The design under consideration will move the processing part of the plant out of the flood plain and will expand the plant to meet future discharge requirements, Whitesel added. The current structure will be renovated and the inground plant will be demolished.

Current costs under consideration only include design. Construction costs will be considered later. Those current fees are not to exceed $54,535, but total costs could be as high as $800,000, Whitesel said.

“Approving this design will allow us to start the process and, if everything goes right, we’ll have this plant replaced this coming summer,” he said.

The Nov. 13 session was also a night to start talking about the 2024-2025 budget for the district. The discussion was only to present a proposed preliminary budget. Adopting the preliminary budget won’t happen until January and the final budget — with final numbers — won’t be voted on until June.

Director of Finance Joe Deady said, by law, the preliminary budget must be approved 90 days before the spring primary. That makes Jan. 24 the last day to approve the preliminary.

“This is a very early budget. A lot of these numbers are estimates,” Deady said.

As of now, the proposal is for a budget of $107,127,440 in expenses and $107,112,812 in revenue and reflects an increase in millage rates. Current numbers reflect an estimated tax increase of 4.10 percent for Chester County property owners and 13.22 percent for those in Chadds Ford Township. Specific possible new tax rates are 33.26 mils in Chester County and 18.93 in Chadds Ford.

Those tax numbers represent a weighted tax increase of 6.05 percent, “which is technically above the 5.3 percent Act 1 index, so we  have work to do to get that down below Act 1 unless we have exceptions, which we won’t find out until January or February.” Deady said.

All of those numbers are subject to change between now and June.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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