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Defunct Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority actions still raising hackles

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By Tim Karan
Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 2:06 a.m.
 

Even though the Elizabeth Township Sanitary Authority officially dissolved in December, it was sewage that again rose to the surface during Monday's commissioners meeting.

In addition to voting to join the effort of several municipalities served by the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport for potential legal action over rate increases and host fees paid to McKeesport, the resentment among commissioners that still surrounds the decision to shutter the township sanitary authority repeatedly manifested itself.

Commissioner Claire Bryce said she and Commissioner Chris Evans learned of the former authority's plan to build a pump station at the Boston soccer field during a meeting last spring with then-commissioner Robert Thomas, Commissioners Joanne Beckowitz and Donald Similo and representatives of the Elizabeth Township soccer league.

Bryce said the plan was fraudulent.

She said Thomas, who was liaison to the sanitary authority, made a presentation showing that the pump station was going to be built “right in the middle” of the soccer field.

“He said all the permits were done and it was written in stone,” Bryce said. “And that led to spring soccer not being allowed access to the field.”

But Bryce said as the operations of the sanitary authority shifted to the jurisdiction of the township last month, the former sanitary board engineer said the soccer field was never to be the actual site of the pump station.

“(It was) only a point of leverage for the previous authority,” Bryce said. “It was all about power.”

Bryce read a statement promising that the field again would be open this spring and that it should have been available last year, as well.

Neither Similo nor Beckowitz responded, but they appeared upset when commissioners president Gene Francesconi revealed that former commissionerLarry Vota, who left the board in December, was on a motion to be appointed to a five-year term on the zoning hearing board and a two-year term on the vacancy board.

Beckowitz asked about an ordinance the board had considered in October that would prohibit commissioners from being appointed to a board, authority or commission for one year following the end of their term.

Solicitor Pat McGrail said the ordinance was circulated among the commissioners but no one moved to put it on a meeting agenda.

Beckowitz snapped, “It depends on who wants it on the agenda.”

She and Similo voted against Vota's appointments, which were approved, 5-2.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to join several municipalities served by the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport — including North Versailles Township and Port Vue — in any legal action taken regarding a $1 million annual host fee the authority pays to McKeesport. Client municipalities whose rates were increased claim the city was generating revenues from the authority to supplement its own operations.

The resolution authorizes township officials to execute all necessary documents to proceed with litigation.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1970, or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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