New Castle News

Closer Look

November 1, 2013

Neshannock Sewer Department: Part-time help to get full-time pay

NEW CASTLE — The Neshannock sewer department’s temporary staffing is being paid more than five times the previous hourly rate.

It comes at a time when the township is looking at a possible offer to buy its sewer lines.

The township supervisors this week contracted with Carbis Walker Certified Public Accountants and Consultants to provide a part-time worker at $85 per hour.

Former sanitation department secretary/treasurer Ronalyn Mitcheltree, who had been paid $15.41 per hour, resigned Oct. 25. The position has been posted, as required by the union contract, but no one signed up to fill the post.

Supervisor Joe Gierlach, who initially rejected an arrangement with Carbis Walker calling for up to 57 hours per month, later relented. Gierlach agreed to support the position “for no more than three days.”

Gierlach said he had been left out of the arrangement, which he said had been negotiated by Supervisors Ed Stevens and Ralph Sheen.

Sheen was absent from Tuesday’s meeting. Stevens’ initial request to accept the Carbis Walker proposal died for lack of a second.

Gierlach said the township contracts with Software Solutions of Gibsonia to send sewer bills to township residents. That company, he said, should have been given the opportunity to submit a proposal.

Duties to be performed by a Carbis Walker employee include general bookkeeping activities and answering the phone.

Stevens said sanitation manager Philip Battista and temporary worker Chris Kliem could be called off the road to answer the phone until someone is hired.

The supervisors will be advertising to fill the position, and solicitor Lou Perrotta will be sitting in on interviews.

“We need help to cover that office,” Gierlach said following the meeting. “I appreciate that Carbis Walker will be lending a hand but at their rates, I hope we hire someone soon.”

Stevens, conducting the meeting in Sheen’s absence, read a letter from Richard Christofer, New Castle Sanitation Authority director.

Christofer notified the township that the New Castle authority is interested in purchasing its sanitary sewer lines. The letter said negotiations for sewer lines are under way with Union and Shenango townships.

Christofer said later his goal is to establish a regional sewer authority.

“We’re looking into that possibility,” he said. “We are in discussion with townships trying to come to some mutual consent.”

The advantage to the townships, he said, is the regional authority would purchase and maintain all sewer lines.

“But there would have to be a benefit to us too,” he said. “If there is no mutual benefit to both parties it won’t happen.”

In 2010, the sanitation authority purchased the city of New Castle sanitary sewer lines for $17.3 million. The sale allowed the city to reduce bond payments over the next eight years.

Christofer said he knows very little about Neshannock Township’s sewer situation.

“We would have to know their debt, their income,” he said. “Really all we know is they have about 3,600 customers.”

Christofer said consumers would benefit from a regionalized sewer authority. “That would keep the rates low.”

He noted sewage from Taylor, Hickory, Shenango, Union, Neshannock and North Beaver townships and South New Castle Borough is already treated at the New Castle Sanitation treatment plant in Mahoningtown.

“If we go to a regional operation, there would be only one sanitation authority,” he said. “Right now there are five.”

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