Monessen sewage plant legal battle ends
By Stacy Wolford
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
A dispute over a proposed water treatment facility in Monessen that landed the city in court has come to an end.
Monessen Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a consent agreement that will allow the Mon Valley Sewage Authority to construct the Seneca Street satellite treatment facility.
City Solicitor Mark Shire said that according to the agreement, the sewage authority will withdraw its suit in Westmoreland County Court and two appeals of Monessen Zoning Hearing Board decisions.
The legal action arose in August, after Monessen Council approved an ordinance changing riverfront land development from permitted use to conditional use. That meant construction or additions would require council approval.
The ordinance stalled authority plans to begin the Seneca Street facility, which will treat stormwater and wastewater before it is discharged into the Monongahela River.
The project is part of Phase II of the sewage authority's long-term control plan to update treatment systems. The control plan grew from an agreement between the authority and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The authority system treats sewage for approximately 2,000 customers in Donora and 3,500 customers in Monessen.
Authority General Manager Tom Salak said that before construction can begin, the agency must submit to the DEP an Act 537 plan that addresses present and future sewage disposal needs. The process takes about six months.
Salak said he expects construction to begin early next year.
“I'm glad we can put this behind us and continue to move forward,” Salak said of the agreement.
The Seneca Street facility will be constructed on the site of the former Page Steel and Wire plant, between railroad tracks and the river in the city's Eastgate section – not far from the Monessen Municipal Building.
Monessen Mayor Mary Jo Smith said the authority agreed to work with council over concerns with noise, odor and the facility's overall appearance.
“We're glad city officials and the Mon Valley Sewage Authority could come to an agreement,” Smith said.
Still pending is a class-action suit filed by Donora Councilman Thomas Kostolansky and his wife, Patricia. The suit was filed March 5 in Washington County Court.
The couple is not seeking monetary damages, but is asking the court to ensure that stalled construction of the plant does not result in “additional charges to their sewage bills as a result of the actions” taken by Monessen, according to the suit.
They claim the battle will add about $10 million to the authority's debt load and, ultimately, customers' bills.
The suit names city officials, including Smith, and the sewage authority.
Tom Kostolansky said news of the agreement is ”absolutely delightful.”
“I had heard some rumors that there was going to be a possible agreement, so this is delightful to hear,” he said.
Kostolansky said the lawsuit will remain until he receives formal notification the sewage authority has withdrawn its appeals in Westmoreland County.
He said he recently agreed to Shire's request to ask for an extension of the class action suit pending the outcome of the negotiations.
Smith announced that those with delinquent garbage bills will be listed Monday on the city website, www.cityofmonessen.com. The website also lists those who owe property taxes.
In an unrelated matter, Maple Avenue resident Patty Arnold complained about large crowds, noise and questionable activity at a neighboring house owned by Councilman Josh Retos.
Retos rents out the property.
Arnold said she and her neighbors are tired of living in fear.
Apologizing to Arnold, Retos said he has been going through a lengthy process to have the tenant evicted.
In other business, council approved:
• The retirement of maintenance worker Stanley T. Marinos Jr. on Aug. 1.
• A request by James Vetere for a handicap parking spot at 225 McKee Ave.
Council also approved the following board reappointments:
• Charles Urbanowicz to the Mon Valley Refuse Authority (five-year term).
• Madeline Dudas and Candis Kelley to the Monessen Public Library Board (three-year terms).
• Jean Fisher to the Property Maintenance Board of Review (five-year term).
• George Shusta to the Zoning Board of Appeals (three-year term.)
The mayor said council received no other applications for the positions.
Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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