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Elizabeth Township commissioners, sanitary authority remain at odds

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 2:06 a.m.

Elizabeth Township commissioners are continuing to deal with legal issues related to their efforts to terminate the township's sanitary authority.

At a regular commission meeting on Monday, a divided board voted 4-3 to take legal action against the Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority, forcing it to cooperate with the township on its efforts to refinance $30 million in authority bond issues.

Board of commissioners president Gene Francesconi, vice president Larry Vota and commissioners Claire Bryce and Chris Evans supported the measure. Commissioners Joanne Beckowitz, Don Similo and Robert Thomas voted against it.

The township will use Boenning and Scattergood as underwriter for the action and Reed Smith as bond counsel, the same firms that had been used by the authority.

Commissioners in April voted along the same lines to dissolve the authority and hired attorney Jack Cambest to oversee the process, an action the authority has vowed to fight.

Earlier this year, the commission voted to add two members to the authority board by amending the authority's article of incorporation, an action that eventually was overruled by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The department said the action did not conform to state law because the authority did not propose the amendment.

At Monday's meeting, township Solicitor Pat McGrail said the authority is suing the township to recover $6,900 in legal fees it incurred while responding to the issue involving the articles of incorporation.

McGrail said she has informed the authority that once it is dissolved, its debts will become the township's debts.

The board, again by way of the same 4-3 vote margin, authorized Cambest to handle the defense against the authority's action to recover legal fees.

The legal action approved at the meeting involving the bond also requires that the authority stop incurring debt and entering into contracts.

McGrail said the authority's refinanced debts will be paid down with funds from sewage rate payers and not with township taxes.

In a separate motion that received unanimous support from commissioners, the board authorized McGrail to send letters to the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department notifying those agencies of the township's plans to dissolve the authority and to request meetings to discuss a consent order under which the authority has been operating.

In other news, commissioners voted unanimously to hire Richard Janus as township manager for a salary of $67,000.

Janus was West Mifflin's business manager for most 2010.

The township has been without a business manager since February when commissioners fired Aaron Sukenik from the position he had held since July 2012. Prior to his hiring, the township had been without a chief administrator for about six months after former township secretary Malisa Migliori resigned from her job in response to commissioners' changing of the township's administrative structure.

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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