By Rick Hiduk
(also published in the Rocket-Courier)
Looking at $67,000 in combined sewer and water bills owed by building owners in Meshoppen, borough council members agreed on Monday that it is time to cut service to those properties regardless of the circumstances.
“If service is rendered, then you have to pay your bill,” said council chairman John Bunnell. “We have to have money to pay our bills.”
During previous discussions, it was noted that several of the properties in question are part of the planned buyout by the Wyoming County Housing & Redevelopment Authority (H&RA) and that the sewer and water amounts owed will come directly from the payouts. More of the late bills in question, however, are still associated with rental properties.
Secretary Phyllis Adams related that one landlord in particular owns seven properties and owes nearly $18,000 to the borough. In the meantime, his tenants have paid rent in good faith with the understanding that a portion of their monthly amount covers their water and sewer expenses. Adams noted that she had phoned the landlord’s office about the past due amount and was told by a woman there that he was busy with other issues. “Now he’ll have something else to be busy with,” said Adams, as council voted unanimously to start the shut-offs immediately.
Little Progress in Flood Buy-Out Zone
The borough will not be collecting past due water and sewer amounts for the properties in the buyout zone any time soon as they again tabled the maintenance agreement with H&RA. Borough solicitor Jonathan Foster requested several changes to the original agreement, and Adams produced an email dated June 27 from H&RA grants administrator Lisa Hahn responding to questions raised by the board at the last meeting.
Nonetheless, council determined that they want Foster’s approval of Hahn’s letter before they will move forward. “That’s what we pay an attorney for,” said council member Mike Voorhees. “I know there’s people down there with answers, but we have nothing to sign.”
In addition to what the board views as a lack of decision on the gas rights, a new matter of concern to the council is that the water and sewer service to each property will be capped off in the course of demolition and cannot be turned back on.
Three properties are confirmed to be on the buyout list, according to treasurer Christine Swilley, with another property owner expected to sign on. Owners of several of the other properties in the buyout zoned have moved or plan to move and will rent their properties.
Borough Seeks Bids for Mowry Street Paving
Council is seeking bids for repaving a rough section of Mowry Street deemed “beyond patching.” Voorhees had suggested at previous meetings that he believes the work can be done for eight to ten thousand dollars. He has met with PennDOT engineer Ed Sumski and has the specs on the project for potential bidders, who may contact him or the borough.
A culvert near the post office still needs to be repaired, and the borough has received a commitment from the company that replaced the Canal Street Bridge last fall to put four thousand dollars towards its reconstruction. Council members still feel that the $4,320 estimate they received last month is too high and that a new grate is all that is really needed. But Voorhees said that the remaining $320 is not excessive if that is all the borough has to pay.
Council member Jack Vow agreed to look into alternative options for both the Mowry Street and culvert issues. Voorhees added that a new grate is needed for a storm drain on Mowry Street due to erosion, and that the grate that used to cover the culvert near the post office could be an adequate replacement.
Community Day Deemed Successful
Bunnell congratulated Meshoppen Community Day coordinator Cindy Cona and a few of her helpers in attendance for another successful Community Day at the park on Saturday. “The music down there was absolutely outstanding,” he remarked. (See related story and photos)
Cona agreed, noting that music could be heard throughout the park due to a new arrangement of the stage area and speakers. She credited Dave Priestner for his help in power-washing the pavilion and parking lot, running water lines for children’s games, electrical lines that most people couldn’t even see, and setting up the sound system.
For future events, Cona suggested that council consider some electrical upgrades at the park. She plans to look into a portable stage for the musicians next year. “I would like the borough council to be more involved in the event too,” she stated.
Excessive heat no doubt had an impact on attendance, but the event still cleared about $4.315, which will be put towards the purchase and installation of new playground equipment.