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Last-ditch sewage rate plan down the drain in Rostraver Township

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

With Rostraver Township poised to raise sewage rates next week, Bill Callaway took an 11th-hour shot Wednesday and offered an alternative plan.

But the Rostraver Township Sewage Authority Board swatted away its treasurer's proposal in a 3-2 decision.

The township board of commissioners is expected to vote March 6 on an ordinance amendment that places increased sewage costs largely on businesses and schools.

Under Callaway's plan, with totals approximated by KLH Engineers, monthly flat rates for residential customers would have increased to $50 per month in District 1 and $65 in District 2. However, the 9,000-gallon quarterly allowance before per-thousand-gallon fees kick in would have remained for all residents, businesses and schools.

Businesses and schools would have also paid the same $12 per 1,000 gallons after surpassing the 9,000 gallons. Callaway insisted the plan would generate a yearly total of just over $3.7 million.

The monthly fee would drop to $50 for anyone in District 2 who would come forward and pay a nearly $5,000 tap-in fee.

The tap-in fee money would go into a separate account to offset debt service.

Callaway and Ray Iacoboni voted for the proposal Wednesday while Chairman Dennis Manown, Gary Dilmore and Tom Patterson voted no.

The remaining plan leaves monthly flat rates at $35 for District 1 and $60 for District 2, while cutting residential allowance to 4,500 gallons per quarter. The allowance would be eliminated for businesses while raising their per-thousand-gallon rate from $12 to $15.75.

“We have to be worried about the township,” Callaway said. “(Commissioner Don) Bottman asked for another option, if we had a better one. And we have a better one.”

“I think we're well beyond this,” Manown told Callaway, noting the legal notice on the proposed ordinance on sewage rate modifications was advertised Wednesday in The Valley Independent.

Customers in District 1 pay an average of $26.35 per month for debt service while customers in District 2 pay $63.53 per month, according to authority documents.

The authority decided not to impose tap-in fees in District 2 after completing a $27 million sewer project, because it didn't think it could collect the money.

Patterson presented a delinquency list showing customers in Pricedale and Lynnwood currently owe nearly $89,200 for January alone.

“You could put a lien on people's house, but you never get it when you need it,” Manown said.

That angered District 2 resident Mark Ferguson. Ferguson said he was initially told he could pay a $4,750 tap-in fee, then found out he was being charged the $60 a month instead, with no end in sight.

“Where did it go so wrong, that you're so in debt?” Ferguson asked the board.

“Consumption,” Manown replied.

“We had one business (Ebara Solar Inc.) that was a big user. That was $400,000 we lost there.

“At the time we were doing this, we were averaging 100 homes a year being built.

“Now we're down to from three to five. So when we did this, we were anticipating new growth and consumption, and both hit rock bottom.”

The authority pays $184,461 per month on four Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority loans and three bond issues.

PennVEST is a state program that provides grants and low-interest loans for clean water projects.

Authority manager Walter Johnson added the closing of the Holiday Inn and SuperValu as hitting consumption hard and said new hotels lack restaurant facilities that traditionally drive consumption.

Belle Vernon Area School District Superintendent Dr. John Wilkinson approached the board about an estimated 400 percent increase in sewage rates for the school district.

Belle Vernon Area business manager Eileen M. Navish estimated the rates would increase $15,123 per quarter, from $5,165 to $20,287.

The school district now pays based on a system that depends on how many students and teachers use a building, along with a monthly flat fee.

However, Johnson said there was some discrepancy with consumption figures Navish used for some buildings.

Johnson did not have estimated increases for the school district immediately available Wednesday.

Belle Vernon Area has four buildings in District 1: the administration building, Rostraver Elementary, Rostraver Middle School and the high school. The Multiplex Building is in District 2.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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