New Castle News

October 14, 2013

Lawsuit seeks township participation for sewage plant repairs

Mary Grzebieniak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Wilmington Borough wants Wilmington Township’s sewer authority to pay more than $133,700 in disputed sewer rate increases.

On Thursday borough solicitor Frank Verterano filed a lawsuit in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court against the authority and Wilmington Township.

The township and the borough have been arguing over the rate increase since 2009, when the borough imposed it on all its customers. This includes about 100 township residents who are served by the borough’s sewer plant.

The increase was imposed to pay for improvements needed to the borough’s sewer treatment plant. While borough residents and some sewage customers in Mercer County have been paying the higher rate since it was imposed in November 2009, the township residents have continued paying their old rates.

Attempts to reach Richard Harper, Wilmington Township Sewer Authority solicitor, were not successful. However, Harper stated in a 2012 letter to borough council that Wilmington Township’s residents should not have to pay for the borough’s sewer plant improvements.

He said when they made their initial agreement in 2005, they were told the plant had sufficient existing capacity to handle the sewage and that if expansion became necessary to maintain the township’s “allocated design capacity,” it would be done at no cost to the authority.

Harper said the proposed improvements to the borough’s sewer treatment plant were necessary “ ... as a result of lack of maintenance and attention over many years.”

He said the borough also never documented its actual sewage treatment costs to support the rate increase or its contention that it was subsidizing treatment costs at the plant.

The complaint states the plant improvement will benefit township customers as well as those in the borough and if they are not made, the plant will deteriorate to the point where it cannot function.

It goes on to state the authority is only being charged for 72 percent, which is the cost of the sewer plant repair without expansion.

Seventy-two percent of the cost is $5.8 million and the authority is only being charged 10.6 percent of that figure, which the complaint states is the authority’s “pro rata share of the actual cost of the capital improvements.”

The borough also is asking for $5,685 in late fees as well as attorney’s fees and other expenses. No hearing date has been set on the matter.