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Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County fights road repair plan

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County officials say new paving ordinances in several boroughs will drive up water rates by increasing costs 300 percent.

But borough officials say they could take the water authority to court for not following their rules.

On July 11, the municipal authority sent out a letter informing municipalities that it had adopted PennDOT guidelines for road restoration after utility work is completed. Some borough officials, who had just passed stricter paving ordinances, said they found the timing suspicious.

Youngwood passed the first ordinance that tightens paving requirements on July 1 after a discussion at the annual G7 Summit. The G7 comprises Youngwood, New Stanton, Connellsville, Scottdale, Everson, Mt. Pleasant and South Connellsville.

Scottdale is in the process of passing a similar ordinance.

The ordinance dictates how much repair work a utility has to do after tearing up a road for work. Depending on the size of the hole, the required repaving job could be to the middle of the road or curb to curb.

“They (the water authority) said, basically, ‘We're not following your rules,' ” Youngwood council President Lloyd Crago said. “They keep saying they follow PennDOT, and we're saying they don't even follow those (regulations).”

Crago said the need to enact a stricter paving ordinance started when potholes on North Sixth Street got out of control. There are now about 21 patches on the road, and some are patches over existing patches, he said.

“They sort of do what they want when they want,” he said of the authority. “Every time we have a problem, it has to be a battle instead of them just planning some stuff.”

Scott Avolio, municipal authority solicitor, said the letter was intended to make it easier for the authority, which services 77 municipalities, to have the same rules to follow in each community.

Officials in several other municipalities were happy with the authority's decision because PennDOT regulations are stricter than their rules, he said.

“These local ordinances are poorly hidden attempts to require MAWC to subsidize the repaving needs of the local municipality at the expense of neighboring communities,” Avolio said. “By passing the current ordinance, it appears that Youngwood Council would rather increase the cost of water service to residents in Hempfield Township, Penn Township and Greensburg, instead of accepting the fiscal responsibility necessary to maintain its own infrastructure.”

Bud Santimyer, vice president of Scottdale Borough Council, said the G7's decision to revise ordinances was to help maintain uniformity in the participating municipalities.

“We were getting so many complaints from citizens about poor patching jobs,” he said. “We want to standardize it throughout the community and have similar language and similar goals.”

Gerald Yanity, solicitor for Youngwood and Scottdale, said utility companies are required to follow the ordinances of the municipality they are operating in, or they can be taken to court.

Youngwood officials are compiling photos of potholes and patches created by the water authority to send to the authority board, he said.

“They've taken a position that they don't have to follow an ordinance,” Santimyer said. “I believe that they are supposed to. But by their opposing it, we'll end up going to court, and the court will end up deciding.”

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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