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Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority to fight termination

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Thursday, April 11, 2013, 3:51 a.m.
 

Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority says it will take all legal means necessary to defend against the township's bid to dissolve it.

At a special meeting on Wednesday, the authority's board of directors gave solicitor Thomas Barry the go-ahead to counter the steps that Elizabeth Township board of commissioners is taking to terminate the authority, and to seek compensation for legal fees incurred while doing so.

“This is an illegal act,” Barry said, referring to an ordinance preliminarily approved by township commissioners on Tuesday night that, in addition to terminating the authority, would put the sanitary system under township control.

Barry said the authority operates like a separate corporation and cannot be terminated by the township under the state's Municipal Authorities Act, which he said was used to form the authority in 2002.

Those who support the dissolution say the township legally can and has terminated the authority in the past.

Township Commissioner Gene Francesconi, who attended the special meeting and supports the township's takeover of the sanitation system, accused the authority of costing the township money in the past through mismanagement.

Francesconi said the township paid fines related to sewage overflows at the authority's Buena Vista treatment plant in 2008, a charge authority members said is not true.

The authority produced a copy of a $20,000 check it paid to the Allegheny County Environmental Fund related to the discharges to prove that it, and not the township, had been held responsible for the fines.

Authority board member Ed Campbell cast the only vote against mounting a defense against the township.

“They have the right to dissolve it,” Campbell said.

Authority board member James Lesniewski Sr. said he is against the termination effort.

“I've worked very hard for years on the board,” he said. “We've done a lot of great work for the community.”

Barry said he could not discuss the authority's next action in the defense, noting that it would be premature even to do so because township commissioners have yet to finalize the ordinance.

Commissioners are expected to do that at their April 22 meeting.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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