Houtzdale OKs rules for new sewerage system
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
By Wendy B. Lynn Staff Writer
HOUTZDALE - Houtzdale Borough Council adopted rules and regulations for the borough's sewerage collection system during last night's regular meeting. Engineer Bill Gohn of the EADS Group of Altoona presented the final draft with a few changes and additions including the rate schedule, tap fee calculation, applications for sewer connection for residential and commercial structures, the permit to connect with and use the system and the ordinances.
The fee schedule includes the annual bill of $170 payable by June 30 with a $25 late fee charged after July 1 and a $75 late fee charged after Aug. 1. Lateral inspections will cost $50, and various fines were listed. It was also noted that water shutoff results in a $75 penalty payable to the water company.
Mr. Gohn said that flows for the month of July were at an all-time low with Houtzdale's share being only 51 percent of the total flow of 156,558 gallons. He said this is the lowest flow in at least eight years and credited the recent project for cutting down extraneous flow into the system.
Mr. Gohn also reported that Jeff Powell, owner of Snappy's Convenience Stores, has been given the opportunity to comment on plans for the curbing project at the store along state Route 53 in the borough. Also, two quotes to do the work were received, and the council accepted the low bid of $7,750 from Norman Diehl Contracting. Recently, the contractor worked on part of the sewer project in the borough.
During public comment, council heard from Gary Wilson of Osceola Mills whose mother lives on property he owns in the area of Harry and Linda streets in Houtzdale. He said the property is adjacent to property owned by Machipongo Land and Coal Co. and the company has not been keeping up the property and as a result his mother's home and yard are being invaded by various creatures including snakes, skunks and possums. "I'm tired of it," he said, and wanted to know what council was going to do to force Machipongo to follow borough ordinances and maintain the property.
Council President Paul Clancy said the borough will send a letter about that property to the company, which recently advertised an address change, and then after that it can levy fines through the magisterial district judge, which, according to borough Code Enforcement Officer Joseph Kercenneck, can be up to $1,000 per day.
Mr. Wilson stated that he doesn't expect the company to respond, and council member John Bumbarger said that the borough has to follow legal steps to have the matter resolved and that it will take time.
Mr. Wilson is also concerned about an open mine shaft on the company's property, noting there is not adequate fencing. He was advised to contact the state Department of Environmental Protection.
During the code enforcement report, Mr. Kercenneck said he would drive to the property this week and take pictures of the property and then send a letter to the owner.
The council voted to hire Tim McGarry as a part-time borough worker for 20 hours per week for the next six months at a cost of $667 per month. Voting yes were Mr. Clancy, Mr. Bumbarger, Jim Love and Tom Conroy. Voting no were Ann Henry and Debbie Gillen and both stated that they were voting no only because they weren't confident that the budget could support the hire, even though they would like to help him. Council member Rob Ferguson was absent.
The council also discussed the repayment of a grant. In November 2007 the borough received a copy of a check for $10,000 presented by Rep. Camille "Bud" George, D-74 of Houtzdale, and the council thought this was for recently awarded grants. The presentation, however, was for two $5,000 grants awarded in 2006. The borough received notice that it needed to close out on the grants, and Secretary Kathy Hamm spent many hours on the phone with people from Harrisburg trying to track down what was going on before someone was able to explain the situation to her. The council already paid back part of the grant and will now have to pay back the rest.
It was suggested that the "check," which is only a representation of a check, presented by Rep. George, be returned to Rep. George's office as well.
In other business:
- First Commonwealth Bank agreed to pay a refund of more than $26,000 to the borough due to a problem with interest rates during the sewer project. The money will go into the sewer account.
- council voted to have Solicitor Kim Kesner obtain information, including financial reports, from the Houtzdale Water Authority. Mr. Clancy reported that he has information that HWA's liability is $6 million and the council is concerned about this and other matters.
- discussion about Mr. Ferguson's seat resulted in Ms. Hamm agreeing to send him a letter requesting his residency status and a letter of resignation since he has missed three council meetings.
The next regular meeting of Houtzdale Borough Council will be Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at the borough building.
A neighborhood watch meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at Palcher Park in Ramey. Trooper Bruce Morris of the Pennsylvania State Police is scheduled to attend, and the public is encouraged to attend these meetings and to participate in the program.