ShareThis Page

Port Vue council set to join host fee legal fight

| Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 5:11 a.m.

Port Vue council has cleared the way for the borough to join any legal action that may be taken regarding a $1 million annual host fee that the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport pays to McKeesport.

Several municipalities served by the authority have questioned the validity of the host fee and have discussed initiating a lawsuit, although none has been filed.

Port Vue on Wednesday approved a motion by Councilman Marshall Black to authorize the borough to participate in any suit brought by North Versailles Sanitary Authority and/or others regarding the fee and related issues.

“Our taxpayers gave the city of McKeesport $1 million to do what they want to do to our sewage bills, and that's not right,” Black said after the meeting.

The resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote. Councilmen Bryan Myers II and Doug Junecko were absent.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said he is surprised by Port Vue's decision but he is confident that nothing will come of it.

“The allegation presented by North Versailles and surrounding communities was that the city was generating revenues from our sewage authority to supplement the operation of the city,” Cherepko said. “By law, we cannot and are not doing that.”

An intergovernmental cooperation agreement stipulates that the authority must pay a flat rate to the city for services that include security measures, street opening permits, infrastructure repairs and shared equipment.

“Because the authority services numerous communities, the residents of McKeesport should not have to foot the bill alone for the services this city provides to the authority,” Cherepko said.

Black asked if the borough should impose its own host fee for use of the retention plant along River Road in Port Vue, or take a share of McKeesport's.

The host fee ignited controversy in North Versailles Township and other client municipalities whose rates were increased, and a forensic audit was initiated.

Authority officials maintained the increases were unrelated to the host fee.

Municipal authority superintendent Chuck Schultz confirmed that the forensic audit was simply a review of the authority's year-end audit, and that the authority provided no additional information to the auditors.

Black said the forensic audit did not justify the $1 million fee.

“(Auditors) found nothing to support what the city was asking for,” Black said.

The authority said rate increases are justified by $60 million it spent to comply with Act 537, an unfunded state mandate that included new treatment requirements and the separation of storm and sanitary sewers.

Cherepko said that mandate prompted several authorities to join McKeesport's system rather than continue to operate on their own, because they could not afford skyrocketing rates.

“What these municipalities are trying to accuse the city of with this forensic audit — they themselves are doing it,” Cherepko said. “There are communities that are billing well above what the McKeesport authority is charging them for sewage treatment. Some are almost double.”

Cherepko said those communities should be explaining to their residents what that overage is funding.

“We should all take a long, hard look in the mirror before we institute any frivolous legal actions against our neighbors,” Cherepko said. “I know we're fine where we are. The question is, are they?”

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.