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Oakmont asks authority to extend contract

| Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

Borough council has decided to ask the Oakmont Water Authority to extend the borough's contract for sewerage and garbage billing for another year.

The borough had the option of contracting with Pennsylvania Municipal Services (PAMS), an independent company, but interim borough manager Daniel Mator said the water authority would help residents who already have trouble paying bills.

Council members Tim Favo and Allan Kennedy voted against continuing to use the water authority for billing.

Favo said he has experienced bad business practices with the water authority and believes contracting with Pennsylvania Municipal Services will save the borough money.

The borough currently pays postage for bills sent out by Oakmont Water, which bills residents for water, sewerage and garbage in one mailing per quarter.

If council members had decided to switch to Pennsylvania Municipal Services, the borough would have saved more than $8,000, Mator said.

However, PAMS would tack costs onto residents to make up for it through late fees, he said.

"It would be an additional cost to those already unable to pay," he said.

Favo pointed out that bills tend to come at bad times, such as directly after winter holidays. Splitting the bills into one water bill and one garbage and sewerage bill by contracting PAMS would help, he said.

The water authority can send one mailing with two coupons to pay the two bills separately, Mator said.

"If they (residents) start getting late fees, they might start paying on time," Favo said.

Council members said they want one year to look over finances, such as the new garbage contract that will need to be renewed for 2009.

"I want to stay with Oakmont Water as a nonprofit company," councilwoman Nancy Ride said.

"The overall cost is lower, even if the borough's bill is higher," she said.

Borough Solicitor Robert Shoop said he would work with the water authority to negotiate the one-year contract before next month's meeting.

In other council news:

• Council voted against a plan by Favo to create a separate bank account for the Oakmont Recreation Committee -- for now.

The majority of council members who voted against the plan said they wanted to wait until they could examine the budget in the next few weeks. They said they support the move in principle.

The recreation committee's account would work similarly to those of the Kerr Memorial Museum fund, library fund and Boulevard Project fund, according to Favo.

The recreation committee receives money from gas wells in the borough's parks, as well as money from the borough, school district and private donations.

Favo said the recreation committee is well-organized and would like a separate account to make sure recreation money remains set aside for the borough's parks.

• The borough will advertise for bids for a new salt shed.

The old one is too small, and the roof is in disrepair, council member Cheryl Zentgraf said.

Mator said increased storage capacity hopefully will save the borough money in the future when salt prices are wavering.

The salt shed will be five times the size of the old shed and is expected to cost $25,000 to $40,000, he said.

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