Greensburg sewage authority warns customers of proposed sale
The Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority is urging its customers to speak out against a potential sale of the sewer system to the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.
Property owners in Greensburg, South Greensburg and Southwest Greensburg received a message on their water bill this month telling them to attend their local council meetings in response to the proposal.
The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County last year sent a letter expressing interest in purchasing the Greensburg sewer system but has not made a formal offer, according to county authority solicitor Scott Avolio.
Any sale would need to be approved by the councils of Greensburg, South Greensburg and Southwest Greensburg. Greensburg Mayor Robert Bell and Southwest Greensburg Mayor Carol Palcic declined comment, except to say a formal purchase offer has not been made.
South Greensburg Mayor Kevin Fajt could not be reached for comment.
“All I know is they’re discussing it among themselves, but it doesn’t sound to me like there’s any movement going,” said Claude R. Petroy, chairman of the Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority board.
Petroy said it was the board’s decision to include the message to customers on this month’s water bill, describing it as an informational item.
“The board has nothing to say about it, because it’s up to the municipalities,” he said. “We’re just advising our rate-payers.”
However, the message warns customers that their rates will go up if the sale goes through, and a similar message posted at the city authority’s office in Greensburg urges customers “to make your voice heard and to stop the increase of your bills.”
The Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County bill customers differently, which makes it difficult to directly compare rates. However, the county authority’s minimum monthly sewage payment is $15.65, while the city authority’s minimum monthly payment is $6.50.
Avolio also said it was “disingenuous” for Greensburg authority officials to say a MAWC purchase would result in rate hikes. When the county authority has purchased other local sewer systems it has frozen customers’ rates for several years.
The county authority valued the Greensburg Sewage system at about $10 million, though a formal offer might be different based on existing debt and other factors, Avolio said.
He said the county authority won’t further pursue the offer unless Greensburg, South Greensburg and Southwest Greensburg make it clear they’re willing to sell.
“The ball is in their court,” he said.
The county authority has been on a buying spree for several years. It’s purchased sewer systems in Hempfield, Jeannette, Youngwood, Ligonier, Penn Borough, Avonmore and Sewickley.
Sewickley sold its sewer system for $1.75 million in cash and $11.5 million in offloaded debt, using the money to buy a new library and recreation center.
Hempfield got $35 million in cash and ditched $32.4 million in debt when it sold its sewer system, using part of the money to create a new fire bureau.
Jeannette got $4 million in cash and offloaded $18 million in debt, using the money to obtain a large bond and balance the 2017 and 2018 budgets.
The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has more than 26,000 sewer customers and more than 120,000 water customers. The Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority has about 10,000 customers.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .