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Exoneration program has yielded $14K in overdue sewage payments

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Bank payment option could be nixed

Officials will consider making another change to the borough's sewage payment collection. After years of allowing residents to pay their sewage bill at First Commonwealth Bank, Council is considering ending the agreement with the bank. Sewage secretary Marlene Mahinske said just 60 people paid their bills at the bank in December, which is about one-fifth of the number of bills that used to be paid there.

A new agreement between First Commonwealth and Export was struck in October. Any sewage bill paid at the bank was subject to a $1 processing fee, with the borough committing to a minimum of $100 in fees per month. If less than 100 people pay at the bank, the borough must pay the difference.

If fewer than 100 people pay at the bank, the borough is obligated to pay to meet the $100 minimum.

In the past, the borough paid a 25 cent surcharge per bill, with a minimum fee of $55 per month collected. The decrease in customers paying at the bank left Soles questioning whether or not to continue to the agreement.

“Why are we spending $100 for 40 people to pay their bill at the bank?” Councilman Clay Soles said. “I wouldn't mind terminating that agreement.”

Officials plan to discuss the agreement at the Feb. 5 council meeting.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A sewage bill exoneration program has helped Export recoup more than $14,000 in past due sewage bills.

Borough officials have been trying to chip away at nearly $65,000 in delinquent sewage bills since last summer. Since the program — which forgave 10 percent of past-due sewage bills — was enacted in October, six property owners have paid off their bill completely, borough sewage secretary Marlene Mahinske said.

That news pleased council.

“You've done well,” said Councilman Clay Soles. “You've done a good job on what you've been doing here.”

In October, council approved offering a sewage bill exoneration to those with balances in excess of $500, if a payment of 20 percent of the balance is made within 60 days. Property owners must pay at least their normal monthly bill plus 5 percent of the past due balance to receive a 10-percent reduction in their balance. The borough had forgiven about $2,100 in sewage bills as of the end of December, Mahinske said.

The six property owners who paid off the delinquent bills paid a total of $8,118, she said; an additional $6,434 has been generated in monthly payments.

Twelve property owners still haven't responded to threats to shut off water to the property, Mahinske said. However, seven of those properties are in foreclosure and have their water turned off already. Officials said they will consider filing liens against those properties.

The collections have benefitted the borough. Mahinske said that in January 2012, the sewage account had about $33,725. This year, there's more than $109,000 in the account after transferring about $28,000 for various payments and expenses.

“Sounds like we're back on track,” Councilman John Nagoda said. “People are realizing that we're going to take action on this.”

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

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