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Richland residents with delinquent sewer bills could get a visit from sheriff

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:04 p.m.

Well-water users who fail to pay their Richland Township sewer bills now can expect a visit from an Allegheny County deputy sheriff.

Richland Township previously dispatched a state constable through the office of former District Justice Regis Welsh to personally notify such residents of their delinquent status.

That method of notification no longer is available, however, through the West Deer office of District Justice Susan Blaschak, who replaced Welsh as the magistrate for Richland Township.

Charles Means, solicitor for Richland Township, delivered that news at the March 20 meeting of Richland Township's supervisors.

“Given the penalties, shut-off fees, legal and court costs involved, it is best for customers to pay their sanitary-sewerage sewer bills when they are due,” said Dean Bastianini, manager of Richland Township.

“If customers are having difficulty paying their bills, the township will work with them to establish a repayment schedule they can handle,” Bastianini said.

Failure to pay for sewer service also could prompt township officials to place liens on the homes of nonpaying well-water users.

Confiscation of personal property is another possible consequence for Richland residents with water wells who fail to pay for sewage treatment.

For sewer customers who use Richland's public-water system, the township will continue to cut off water service to people who don't pay their sewer bills.

“Richland only shuts off the water or files charges at the magistrate as a last resort,” Bastianini said. “Once a judgment is entered or the property is posted for (water) shut-off, the only way to restore service is to pay the delinquent amount in full.”

Richland Township currently issues two notices of delinquency for unpaid sewer bills.

“If that doesn't work, we send a water shut-off notice and post the property for shut-off, or in the case of well customers, we file a claim at the district magistrate's office,” Bastianini said.

“The magistrate then schedules a hearing, and once it takes place, will enter a judgment in favor of the township for the amount owed, plus costs,” Bastianini said. “The customer has 30 days to satisfy the judgment.”

If a sewer customer fails to pay that bill within 30 days, township officials then obtain an “order of execution” for delivery to the nonpayer.

A state constable used to deliver such orders.

The Allegheny County Sheriff's Department now will handle the orders, at additional cost to delinquent sewer customers.

“This will be something new,” Bastianini said. “The constable is not available to do that service.”

Each month, Richland Township officials file 10 to 12 water shut-off notices or claims against well-water users for unpaid sewer bills, according to Bastianini.

Bastianini said 11.4 percent of the township's sanitary-sewer customers — 424 of 3,723 customers — get their water from wells.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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