ShareThis Page

N. Versailles, city amicably resolve host fee concerns

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 4:17 a.m.
Workers Justin Kaminsky and Don Lundberg monitor systems at the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport's Cliff Street Pumping Station, which is the first of several renovated and/or new facilities to be up and running. This station pumps sewage from North Versailles Township and McKeesport's East End. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

North Versailles Township officials are on their way to amicably resolving their concerns regarding an annual host fee that McKeesport imposed on its sewage authority in 2012.

During the township board's December meeting, commissioners unanimously authorized solicitor Greg Evashavik to consult with North Versailles Township Sanitary Authority solicitor Jack Cambest to research the legality of that host fee.

At that time, North Versailles officials questioned McKeesport's $1 million host fee because it made headlines at the same time sewage rates were set to be increased. Cambest said the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport plans to raise township rates by approximately 28 percent, or $1.75 per 1,000 gallons. That translates to $10-$20 per quarter per household.

In response to that public discussion, township officials met privately with McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko to discuss the impact the city's host fee could've had on its neighbors in North Versailles.

“The mayor explained as much of it as he could to us, but there were some questions we asked that weren't answered,” board of commissioners president George Thompson said. “It has my attention, and it has everyone else's because it's going to affect the taxpayers of our township in a big way. I am looking for a few answers, and 28 percent is not what I want to hear.”

Municipal authority chairman Nick Shermenti said the authority's operations have not been affected by the city's host fee, and that the 2013 bill already has been paid.

“We had that money in a surplus before the rate increase,” Shermenti said, referring to past income gained through treatment of water used in Marcellus Shale drilling.

He explained that a bond, taken to cover state Department of Environmental Protection-mandated improvements related to Act 537, required several rate increases to be scheduled over a number of years.

Thompson said the estimated 28-percent increase is far beyond what North Versailles officials understood to be part of that plan. He said he hopes to speak with municipal authority board members or staff, who can answer questions that Cherepko did not.

During McKeesport's January council meeting, president Darryl Segina asked for an update on the North Versailles matter, and Cherepko said it had been resolved.

“The sewage authority is a quasi-governmental entity that is separate from the city, yet has strings attached to the city because we are responsible for any debts that they incur and cannot pay,” Segina said. “That's why I am concerned, and I've been talking about this concern for quite a while.”

Segina said the displeasure that has been made public in North Versailles also is present in the South Allegheny communities of Liberty and Port Vue as well as North Versailles' neighboring municipality of East McKeesport. He suggested that McKeesport's administration have a back-up plan in place for any legal action that these municipalities might take.

“I don't like to see this kind of thing happening,” he said. “We're supposed to be the leaders of the Mon-Yough valley, and we're not leading too well when it comes to that.”

Cherepko told Segina that the North Versailles matter is a non-issue at this point, because “I've already met with the North Versailles officials to demonstrate to them that this increase has nothing to do with our host fee,” Cherepko said. “Their concern was that they saw the host fee and then they saw the increase.”

Thompson said those concerns have yet to be eased completely.

“McKeesport's a friend of ours,” he said. “We want to work with them, but we want them to be fair with us.”

While Thompson said legal action is not being taken at this time, it's not out of the question. For that reason, he did not share the questions for which he is seeking answers.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.