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County government reaches out to perspective sewer customers

Land owners from Glebe Harbor to Tidwells and Drum Bay received a mailing from the county government detailing the sewage collection system that is on its way to those residential neighborhoods.

Prospective sewer customers have until July 27 to purchase connections at the introductory price of $3,000.

“Westmoreland County has been awarded a low interest loan from Rural Utilities Service to construct a wastewater collection system for the Glebe Harbor, Tidwells, Drum Bay Sewer Project,” the June 15 correspondence states.

“The Rural Utilities Service requires 80% of the existing customers within the service area to sign a Wastewater Users Agreement for the county to receive the low interest loan.”

The mailing includes the set of “frequently asked questions” and associated answers included in the county government’s June 2 presentation at Cople Elementary School and the crucially important user agreement and rejection of service documents. The user agreement would have to be returned with the attached $3,000 payment to connect no later than the previously noted July 27 deadline. Anyone wishing to decline utilization of the collection system must complete the service declination statement included in the packet and return that document to the county government no later than July 27.

When accepting the service with the purchase of one or more connections, the prospective user agrees to convey the necessary perpetual easement(s) to the county government and its successors. The county then holds the “right to erect, construct, install and lay, and thereafter use, operate, inspect, repair, maintain, replace and remove pipelines and appurtenant facilities, together with the right to utilize adjoining lands belonging to the Customer for the purpose of ingress to and egress from the above described lands,” the agreement document relates.

“The Customer also agrees to be fully responsible for the service line from the home to the grinder pump system as well as connecting the grinder pump station to the existing electrical service.

“The customer agrees to comply with and be bound by the Utility Service Regulations and Standards of the County, now in force or as hereafter duly and legally supplemented, amended, or changed. The Customer also agrees to pay for said service at such rates, time, and place as shall be determined by the County, and agrees to the imposition of such penalties for noncompliance as are now set out in the county’s Utility Service Regulations and Standards, or which may be hereafter adopted and imposed by the County.”

When the collection service becomes available, the customer “shall be responsible for payment of monthly charges, even if the customer has not connected service to the completed and available County facilities.” The initial monthly charge is $42.00 per month. When the customer “disconnect(s) from the existing sewage disposal system and connect(s) to the county’s sewage system, rainwater disposal, drainage systems and/or sump pumps shall not be connected to the County’s sewage system.

“The failure of a customer to pay charges duly imposed shall result in the automatic imposition of the following penalties: “Nonpayment within ten days from the due date will be subject to a penalty of ten percent of the delinquent account. “Nonpayment within thirty days from the due date will result in the discontinuance of service to the Customer’s property. “In the event it becomes necessary for the county to discontinue service to a Customer’s property, a fee by the County in its rate schedule will be charged for a reconnection of the service.” 

In other words, if the county disconnects a tap due to a customer’s failure to pay the monthly fee, and new connection must be purchased at a cost higher than the discounted introductory offer of $3,000 that is effective only until July 27, 2012. The cost of a non-discounted sewer connection in Westmoreland County is currently $4,800.

Sewer users are required to destroy their existing private septic thank and drainfield accommodations. In the event that a Customer is disconnected from the collection system as a result of failure to pay the monthly service fee, there will be no possibility of returning to the previously used private septic system infrastructure.

Customers will construct lines at their own expense to reach the public collection system mains. Prospective customers are being advised that they will need to provide their own generators to run the individual grinder pumps the county will install on the property of each collection system customer. Generators will be needed to power the grinder pumps in the event of electrical power outages.

The user agreement includes a provision requiring the customer “to hold the County harmless for any interruptions in service.”

“The County will not be responsible,” the document then states, “for any damages to the customer by virtue of the county’s failure to supply service (compensatory or punitive).

“Upon default by the Customer in any of the provisions of this agreement and/or should the county bring any enforcement action in accordance with the terms hereof against the Customer, that Customer agrees to pay all charges of enforcement, including, but not limited to, court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.”

The user agreement will be moot if the county government fails to recruit at least 450 sewer project customers, a threshold that equates with the previously referenced 80 percent participation standard imposed by the federal government financing agency. The county government would advise the federal authorities that the project failed as the result of insufficient interest.

County government officials maintain that failure of the Glebe Harbor, Tidwells and Drum Bay sewer project is unlikely, that participation in other county sewer projects exceeded the 80 percent threshold established by Rural Utilities Service. Local officials expect the project to be completed as quickly as Spring 2014.

Efforts to launch a subsequent wastewater collection project in the Cabin Point and King Copsico subdivisions and portions of Bushfield and Mount Holly Road were announced earlier this month.

 

Betsy Ficklin

 

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