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Harrison residents ask relief

| Tuesday, May 25, 2004

HARRISON -- Township residents flooded the commissioners' meeting Monday night with complaints and concerns due to raw sewage mucking up their basements after recent storms.

More than 50 people, primarily from Dallas Avenue, demanded answers to why their properties are flooding with each bad bout of weather.

Many spoke of how they lost thousands of dollars worth of property, including priceless family heirlooms, and questioned if appliances should be replaced.

Others questioned how safe it is to live in a home where raw sewage clung to basement walls, in some homes as high as 6 feet up the walls.

After at least 10 residents addressed the commissioners, President George Conroy gave them an answer.

"I am convinced the problem is above Dallas Avenue," Conroy said.

As a result, the township will hire a company to run a camera through the sewerage lines of 260 homes and business sewerage in the Dallas Avenue area to see if people have illegal sewerage and storm pipe tie-ins.

"That's the direction we need to take," Conroy said.

If the township decided to have flow meters strategically placed in sewerage pipes through the area, it would take 60 days to properly monitor the flow, Conroy said.

In that time another spout of bad weather could hit the township. It also would cost at least $54,000 for the monitor method, while placing cameras in lines would cost around $25,000, he said.

Solicitor Charles Means told commissioners due to the emergency status of the situation the commissioners could hire any firm without the usual bidding process.

Conroy wants to hire a firm as early as today.

Means told a resident after the meeting the township is drafting an ordinance to address people who illegally have their sewerage and water running together in the same pipe.

Some of the provisions might be fining the homeowner up to $1,000 a day and taking the resident to small claims court at District Justice Carolyn Bengel's office. The homeowner would have a reasonable time to fix the problem, such as 30 days, Means said.

At times the meeting was boisterous, and Conroy pounded a gavel to regain order.

Not all the problems are on Dallas Avenue, and Conroy said cameras would hit those areas too after hearing stories from residents such as Micheala Krynicki in the 1000 block of Freeport Road.

"We had 16 inches of water," Krynicki said. "It is affecting us, too."

She questioned who was going to replace all of her belongings, because like other homeowners present at the meeting, their insurance didn't cover the damage.

No promises were made, but Conroy told people to send their claims to the township to be forwarded to the township's insurance agent.

Krynicki also wanted to commend the Hilltop Hose Volunteer Fire Company for the job they did helping her out with her home. Many in the audience erupted into applause.

John Gillette of the 1400 block of California Avenue said 6 feet of raw sewage filled his basement. He said in the fall he lost $5,000 worth of items, and lost another $5,000 with the last rain. He said the clean up was tedious, time consuming and heart breaking because recent Christmas toys for his four children had to hit the trash.

"My kid said, 'Dad, you just threw my childhood away,'" Gillette said. "It's like someone put a knife in my back and twisted it. I have a major problem."

His wife was overwhelmed.

"She had 18 washers going at the Laundromat," Gillette said. "She cried the whole time. I'm out 10 grand in six months. I can't say, "Hey kids, Santa is coming again. I can't be cleaning up crap all the time."

Conroy outlined to residents the $123,150 worth of work done in the Dallas Avenue area since 1997 trying to fix the problem.

Commissioners won't stop until the problem is solved, he said.

A representative from the office of state Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, was present at Monday's meeting.

Items approved at Monday's meeting:

  • Commissioners accepted a $169,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the township's recycling program.

  • Authorized payment of second quarter allocations to the township's volunteer fire departments at $1,250 each.

  • Appoint Stanley Kaminski to the township planning commission for a four-year term.

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