The Athens Township Authority hopes to start construction shortly on a $4.5 million upgrade to increase sewer capacity in the township, authority chair Dr. Pat Musto told township supervisors Wednesday.

Engineers have nearly completed the project's design, and the state Department of Environmental Protection has reviewed and is expected to approve the authority's sewer comprehensive plan, Musto said.

The authority has also received the necessary permits to construct a force main from the western part of the township under Route 220, the Chemung River and the railroad to run parallel to Elmira Street.

The authority has been working to secure easements to install the main, which Musto said will be constructed just inside the Route 220 fence line. However, the authority's engineers continue to work with Walmart on gaining an easement to their property, Musto said Wednesday.

Engineers overseeing construction of the Super Walmart adjacent to the existing store want to ensure the main will not interfere with storm water management plans for the site, township solicitor John Thompson said.

Musto said the authority hopes to work with Walmart without incurring any time delays or legal expenses, which would increase project costs. As of Wednesday, projected costs remained in line with the original estimates, and construction was anticipated to start "as soon as the weather will allow us to," Musto said.

Delays would also lengthen the prohibition on development in the township caused by a lack of sewer capacity in the Elmira Street area, Musto said.

The township has had to delay two proposed new houses on Queen Esther Drive and at least one proposed development on Elmira Street due to the sewer issues, supervisor Ron Reagan said Wednesday.

The demolition of the former DeSisti Trailer Court and the closure of the NOMAC training facility have eased the burden on the sewer system, but that slack will soon be taken up by the almost-completed Sayre Health Care Center nursing home and the Candlewood Suites hotel, Musto said.

"We are willing to work with people, but all we have are the reports we have in terms of capacity," Musto said.

Possible development at the former trailer court site would be able to hook into the sewer system, Musto said, as its suggested use would require less than the between 36 and 38 equivalent dwelling units used by the trailer court.

Without disclosing what development is planned at the site, "the indication is that their usage will be substantially less than that," Musto said.

Construction on the upgrade is expected to take about a year. Supervisors voted in July to guarantee a $6.5 million loan for the authority, which funds the upgrade and refinances old debt.

The project will also upgrade two pump stations to handle the additional capacity coming from the new main. A main from Pump Station No. 1, located near Athens Area High School, to the Valley Joint Sewer Authority plant in Athens Borough would then be replaced with a larger main.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.