Export council, sanitary authority take aim at one another

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Export officials want their voice to be heard when it comes to local sewage issues.

Council members said it would be ideal if council was given a seat on the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority board but said they would settle for an audience with one of FTMSA's members.

“I hate to go on about this over and over again, but there's wasted money,” Councilman John Nagoda said. “That seems to me that the board has not used its money wisely.”

Export officials have expressed anger over a proposed $3 monthly fee that authority manager Jim Brucker has proposed. The fee, which would be put into place later this year if approved by the board, would help fund long-term equipment replacement.

Nagoda said he thinks Export — which is one of seven communities in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties served by the authority — should have the opportunity to have an at-large position on the board. If nothing else, he wants someone from the five member board — and not Brucker — to attend an Export Council meeting.

“They say there's no increase, but in three months, there will be an increase,” Nagoda said. “It's a convoluted way to do things.”

Bad blood between officials at the authority and the borough goes back many years. In 2010, the authority sued the borough in civil court for breach of contract, claiming Export was not regulating the discharge of stormwater and other harmful substances into the sewage lines. The lawsuit is ongoing.

In December, Export Mayor Michael Calder blasted the authority for the proposed new fee during a council meeting. Officials often complain about the authority's egg-shaped digester project, which was problematic. The 750,000-gallon sewage digester enabled the authority to process more waste and was completed in 2004. It caused controversy when it took several years to be put to use.

In a letter obtained by the Murrysville Star sent to Calder last week, Allan Sarver — the president of the sanitary authority — said borough officials are spreading misinformation about the authority.

In the letter, Sarver said he has “come to the conclusion that either you have been badly misinformed as to the operation of the Authority or you have undertaken a campaign to smear the Authority and mislead the public concerning its operations. Our Board and I personally take issue with your characterization of the operation of the Authority.”

Sarver explained that the digester was needed because the amount of “sludge” being processed at the Meadowbrook Road sewage treatment plan was near its capacity. The egg-shaped design eliminates the need for periodic cleanings, which would cost $100,000, Sarver said. Adding the digester has saved the authority – and its customers – about $100,000 annually, he said.

Sarver called the proposal to add a $3 monthly fee to customer bills “a logical and forward-looking anticipation of future capital costs.”

Sarver, who did not return calls for additional comment, wrote that the authority welcomes “good-faith inquiries about its operations” and invited Export to tour its facility.

Borough officials have toured the facility as recently as 2011.

Council Vice President Dave Pascuzzi balked at the increase and said it's a matter of continued maintenance on sewer lines. The borough, which maintains its own sewer lines but is served by the authority, has done just that, he said.

“We've done our job, and just because they're lax and their sewer system needs repaired doesn't mean we should pay for it,” Pascuzzi said. “They want to increase it because they haven't done their jobs.”

Nagoda said the authority needs to come to Export.

“They need to come and see us. It's time,” Nagoda said. “They remind me of that Japanese leader during World War II – you know, the one you'd never see?”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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