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New Kensington authority admits error, agrees to prorate bills

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Municipal Sanitary Authority of New Kensington has resolved a billing issue that caused what one landlord referred to as “double billing” for one quarter on a single rental property.

On Monday, authority Manager Daniel Rowe notified the board that he reviewed the authority's decades-old bill regulations and discovered that the authority should be prorating for bills that cover less than a month or less than a quarter.

Since January, Pennsylvania Municipal Service (PAMS) of Oakmont has been doing the authority's billing. The company had not been instructed to prorate partial quarters, Rowe said.

Previously, the Municipal Authority of the City of New Kensington, which regulates water service, billed for both services.

“I think they must have been prorating in the past,” Rowe said. “That's why we're getting these calls.”

The issue came to light when Rhonda Russell of Frazer, who has rental properties in New Kensington, questioned authority board members and Rowe about two bills she received when she put the sewage bill in her name after her tenant moved out seven days before the quarter was over.

Russell said she was charged the standard quarterly rate of $111, plus a $115 security deposit, after her tenant paid his final bill — already settling what was owed for the quarter.

“They're getting a windfall for people moving in and out,” Russell said.

The issue could also occur for homeowners selling their properties, but landlords with transient tenants noticed the change right away, said Don Ryan, president of the Alle-Kiski Valley Landlord Association.

“It's clearly not fair,” he said.

At first, board members and Rowe told Russell that's simply how the billing works when the account changes names and a new account number is created.

“I just didn't look back far enough,” Rowe told board members Monday.

Rowe said he has instructed PAMS to prorate partial bills. He said the bills will be calculated by day using the standard $111 quarterly fee.

He said if someone contacts the authority, the staff will work to correct any bills that should have been prorated.

Pipe to be repaired

Rowe also announced that the authority plans to spend $12,900 to repair about 460 feet of pipe on Leechburg Road in front of the Kings Family Restaurant and Walgreens.

Rowe said the section of pipe has been damaged slightly due to road work and the construction of the plaza where Walgreens is located.

The repairs will be done overnight and no excavation will be needed. The authority plans to use a rehabilitation method called cured-in-place-pipe, in which a sock-like tube is pulled through the pipe, then steam or water is used to expand the liner and cure it in place.

The method makes a resin lining on the inner side of the pipe.

Rowe said he hopes to have the repairs complete in about a week.

“It's a very sensitive area and I want it taken care of,” he said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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