Liberty Township is receiving a state grant that will fund an expansion of its sewer infrastructure.
An announcement was made on Wednesday that the $385,000 Commonwealth Financing Authority grant was approved, and township officials are excited.
"We've been waiting on this grant," said Supervisor Ron Faull.
The sewer project will cost about $497,400, and it is needed mainly to serve Keystone Safari, the new animal park that is under construction on state Route 258 in the township.
The difference of $112,400 will be covered by Keystone Safari, which is owned by Adam Guiher. Plans for the facility have been in the works since 2014, and construction started a few months ago on the 129-acre property at 2264 Mercer Butler Pike.
The township has been working with Guiher to get everything sorted out, and the sewer project is being reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for final approval, Faull said, adding that the upgrades should be ready to go for 2018.
Because of the grant and Guiher's financing, there will be no rate increase for township sewer customers. Some residents will have to connect to the new line, and there might be a daylong service interruption for one home, Faull said.
The grant will allow the township to expand its service area and ultimately create jobs; that part of Mercer County needs dependable infrastructure in order to support business growth, state Rep. Tedd Nesbit, Grove City, R-8th District, said in a news release issued by Nesbit and state Sen. Michele Brooks, Jamestown, R-50th District.
The project will add 9,600 linear feet of public sanitary sewer force main along Schmidt and Amsterdam roads, and down Mercer Butler Pike to the animal park, which will have indoor and outdoor exhibits and create about 40 new jobs, Nesbit said.
It will include the installation of 18 grinder pumps for homes and businesses to connect to the force main.
Guiher said that the new line will benefit everyone in its path, and that the project is a "perfect fit." Sewer service options were limited for the animal park, especially since conventional on-lot setups don't function well in this region's soil, he said.
"We were thrilled for the opportunity to work with local officials to pursue this grant," he said, adding that he learned a lot from the process.
Job creation and expanding sewer services are the primary goals of the grant, considering Keystone Safari expects thousands of visitors. An official opening date is still a few months away, but they are making progress every day.
Guiher expects to have the adventure park and zip lines operating later this year, but the construction timeline depends on the the completion of the sewer project.
"The spring building season is just about to launch," he said.
The animal park will be built in phases and will feature a safari bus tour, walk-up exhibits, 80 to 90 species of animals, and more. Guiher's goal is to raise rare and endangered species and provide educational and interactive experiences.
Guiher, who also owns Living Treasures Wild Animal Park in Slippery Rock Township, Lawrence County, has said that Keystone Safari will be home to white rhinos, ostriches, zebras, elk, bison, tapirs, giraffes, toucans, bald eagles, a large barnyard exhibit, and the state’s largest herd of reindeer.