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Lower Swatara Township uses eminent domain to move stormwater project ahead

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 7/31/19

Lower Swatara Township is proceeding with eminent domain and condemning four easements in order to complete its Rosedale Manor stormwater project.

The township is pursuing a multi-million dollar …

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Lower Swatara Township uses eminent domain to move stormwater project ahead

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Lower Swatara Township is proceeding with eminent domain and condemning four easements in order to complete its Rosedale Manor stormwater project.

The township is pursuing a multi-million dollar stormwater project that will address flooding issues and move utilities out of private land and into the streets and right-of-ways.

The township needed about 70 easements — a mixture of temporary and permanent — to do work on residents’ property.

During the July 17 board of commissioners meeting, township solicitor Peter Henninger said the township was down to the last five easements, and township manager Betsy McBride several days later confirmed that only four remained.

“Out of 73, that’s not too shabby,” Henninger said.

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution, authorizing the easements.

“To a certain degree, we waited until the last possible moment to do this in order to keep it down. If we had done this two weeks ago, we would’ve had a dozen,” he said.

All of the condemned easements are temporary, which means the wheels of construction equipment will be in their parking spaces.

In an interview, McBride said the township budgeted $143,000 for legal costs, and that included $96,000 for easement acquisition and $25,000 for condemnation.

Henninger said he believed the township would be under budget for easement acquisition.

“It’s a very graven power that any government body has to exercise eminent domain, just to assure that this is not something that we wanted to do,” said Vice President Todd Truntz, adding that the township tried multiple times to get the easement agreements signed.

Part of the project is to be funded through a Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority loan. Director of Public Works Lester Lanman said PennVEST staff said PennVEST will only pay for trench restoration paving, and some of that money will be shared with Suez, which will be doing work on their water pipes.

“So if we’re digging the trenches, we’re told this PennVEST loan cannot pave curb to curb, so that’s why other money will be needed to finish that part of the paving,” McBride said.

The commissioners unanimously approved the lowest bid from Doli Construction Corp. of $3,346,716 for the project.

Commissioners also unanimously approved an engagement letter with law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC for a fixed fee of $15,000, which would act as bond counsel and work on revisions to a temporary easement in the 500 block of Mountain View Road, including shrinking the length of the easement from three to two years.