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Penn Hills Council enacts one-time sewer amnesty program

| Monday, March 17, 2014, 2:54 p.m.

Penn Hills council voted unanimously at Monday night's council meeting to institute a one-time amnesty program aimed at addressing the large number of residents who received collection letters last year for five-year-old delinquent sewer bills.

About 700 residents received collection letters from Norristown, Pa.-based Portnoff & Associates stating that they owed billing charges, late fees and penalties. More than half of those bills date back to the final 2008 bill from Penn Hills' previous billing company, Central Tax Bureau. Residents criticized the municipality for contracting with a collection agency to go after bills which many homeowners said they never received.

The municipality sent out a 2008 letter after the billing-company switch, alerting residents that they would receive a bill for the final Central Tax Bureau billing period as well as a new bill from the local water authority. Several who spoke at council meetings said they were happy to pay what they owed, but never received the final Central Tax Bureau bill.

The one-time amnesty program will allow residents to pay by May 31 any sewer fees originally incurred prior to May 1, 2008. By doing so, homeowners will only be required to pay 50 percent of the attorney's fees incurred during collection, and the municipality will agree to waive penalties, interest and the $30 service charge on unpaid sewer fees.

Municipal Manager Moe Rayan said Portnoff officials will be sending out letters to residents with delinquent sewer bills outlining their options through the program.

Other items on the agenda included:

• A “street occupancy” ordinance regulating the occupancy, repair and installation of improvements in municipal rights-of-way.

• A revision to the sewage facilities plan to allow for the replacement of about 3,600 feet of 10- and 12-inch clay pipe with 15-inch pipe in the Lime Hollow Road area. Water pollution control officials and municipal engineers from Gateway Engineers in Monroeville worked on the revision, and said in their report that while no additional flow is proposed, the upgrade will allow for both wet-weather flow and future growth, and should reduce overflow at a particularly troublesome manhole along Lime Hollow Road.

• A sewage-module proposal for the new Dollar General store proposed for 7248 Saltsburg Road. A sewage module is usually required for new construction expected to generate significant additional water flow. Municipal Manager Moe Rayan said the anticipated flow from a new Dollar General store is “insignificant,” in a letter to mayor and council; however the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is requiring the module be submitted because the existing garage on the property was previously hooked into a septic system.

Council voted unanimously in favor of all three resolutions.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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