New Castle News

October 11, 2013

Sewer rate committee sidelined

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Plans to allow developers to recommend and set sewer rates in Neshannock Township were shelved this week.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Ralph Sheen asked developer Michael Wish to spearhead a committee to study sewer rates and recommend new ones. Wish was asked to select two people to serve with him on the committee and to make their recommendations at the supervisor’s next meeting, set for 9 a.m. Oct. 29.

Wish, who said he has been a developer since 1993, had approached the supervisors after the municipal officials advertised plans last month to amend language in the township’s sewer ordinance. The changes would affect definitions of dwelling units and rate charges.

The amendments, Wish said, would have redefined an equivalent dwelling unit and result in higher rates paid by businesses.

An equivalent dwelling unit is a unit of measure by which sewer users are charged for services. Currently, a household served by one equivalent dwelling unit pays $47 per month for 4,240 gallons of water used. The user is charged more if water use exceeds that amount.

Wish said he expects to pay for water used, but raised a concern that overage changes based on current formulas could unfairly affect developers’ bottom lines.

Although Sheen said he believed water users should have a say in sewer rates, supervisors Joe Gierlach and Ed Stevens did not support the cause.

“We never talked about this,” Gierlach said in explaining his opposition.

He urged township officials to contact Hatch, Mott and MacDonald of Pittsburgh, the township’s sewer consulting engineers, and other on staff experts to determine what the sewer rates should be.

The township raised sewer rates last year. A higher rate may be considered for 2014, he said after the meeting.

“But the ordinance before us has nothing to do with higher rates,” he said. “That ordinance just defines and clarifies definitions within the ordinance.”

The existing ordinance, adopted in 1977, does not address multiple users served by single-metered water lines.

Stevens also rejected Sheen’s proposal to establish a developers committee saying he would first like to see recommendations from the consulting engineers.

The question of water rates was raised at the supervisors Sept. 17 meeting when Hank Forney, another developer, questioned water bills and asked supervisors to help him to resolve them.