Nicholson sewer causes frustration

BY PAT FARNELLI

Wyoming County Press Examiner

About 20 borough residents showed up at the Nicholson Borough Sewer Authority meeting Tuesday (March 12), and most were there to express their annoyance.

The dissatisfied residents in the audience seemed to be split into two groups: business owners worried about their EDU rating, and homeowners irritated about their hookup fees.

Solicitor Paul Litwin III said that he has been in contact with engineer David Horst about amendments.

He stated that there had been an extension of the deadline of the current loan from December 2012 to January 2014.

Litwin said that almost no money is coming in, and the debts are accruing.

He said that Nicholson Borough guaranteed the debt of the sewer and water authority, and thus would have to raise taxes to cover the sewer note.

Litwin noted that a PennVEST deal had been attempted. They applied for a $1 million loan but was denied.

Another pitch to PennVEST in April was possible, but Litwin said that PennVEST was requiring proof that collections were coming in.

He said that there are three ways to raise money: Tapping fees, user fees, and to borrow money.

Litwin suggested the authority would need to impose tapping fees and user fees as well to raise money.

“Raising taxes one mil in Nicholson only brings in $600. That’s it,” he said.

“In addition to fees, taxes would have to be raised four or five times what they are now,” Litwin said.

“We did research on this. This is legal. It is unfortunate,” Litwin said.

He noted that PennVEST would likely make a decision  whether to approve or not. In June, a letter was sent out about a $500 additional fee (surcharge.)

Litwin addressed the increase in tapping fees. “Nobody on the authority wanted to do this,” he said.  “They have been putting this decision off since October.”

“You all got a letter in June, to pay the tapping fee, so that you could be hooked up by October.”

“I didn’t get a letter until the Eleventh,” business owner Tom Chickey said.

He said a letter is dated the first, but could not be sent out until after the meeting, held the first Tuesday of the month.

Litwin, “I agree it’s short notice. We have no choice.” EDU change is from the formula of the DEP.

Chickey asked about how churches are assessed EDUs, since they have a lot of seats. His restaurant has 60 seats. Mazur’s Bridge View Diner. He was told by Litwin that churches are assessed one EDU.

Sewer Authority member Desmond Ryder said, “I agree it is fairer to do bills based on consumption, but we don’t have a system to do consumption based billing. They have made the decision two years ago, 2011 is when the EDUs were set. In the meter, if you are going to go to usage based billing, you will need to be metered.

Pam Harding said that 173 EDUs have been paid, out of 320 total for the borough.

Litwin said, “These pipes went into the ground at a certain price, whether you drink ten gallons of water per month, or 20 gallons.”

Resident Bill Irion  has vacant apartments in his building, can he cut off their electric service and lower his EDUs? He might need to permanently disconnect his plumbing as well. Do you have the authority to contact the engineer and determine what they are going to do to my property? I have no tank on the ground, nothing .”

Litwin said, mandatory connection doesn’t apply to you until you have the ability to connect.

Litwin said that it is possible to extend the payment time for two years instead of one, we need to make a plan that will bring in money and not hurt anyone.

Litwin: all of these people (on the Sewer and Water Authorities) are volunteers. They come here to make the best decisions for our community. No one up here is profiting.”

All of the tapping fees went from $1500 to $2000 in June of last year.

If PennVEST funds this, all of the debts will be paid, and PennVEST can come back and re-evaluate later.

The sewer authority approved payment of outstanding interest to First National Bank.

It was noted that tapping fees already collected total about $36,000, and a payment of $36,000 to Alfred Benesch & Co. Engineering of Pottsville was approved.