- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—WILKES-BARRE — City council during a special meeting Monday hired a consultant to help form a sewer authority to collect service fees from surrounding municipalities that officials say burden the city’s sewer system.

Councilman Bill Barrett said three representatives from Cardno BCM, a Montgomery County-based consultant company that will help the city form a charter and a five-year plan, sat down with council Monday morning to address council members’ concerns. Council voted 4-1 to hire the consultant, a cost estimated between $12,000 and $15,000 to be paid out of the city’s general fund.

Council members held the special meeting after unanimously voting to table the resolution at its regular meeting on July 9 until they could learn more about the proposed authority’s functions.

Councilman Tony George cast the lone vote Monday against forming the authority. During the meeting when the resolution was tabled, George questioned the need for an authority, asking why the city couldn’t collect the fees on its own.

City attorney Tim Henry said the authority would have the legal power to go into another municipality to assess how much of its water is coming through the city’s sewage system as well as put liens on properties in another municipality. He also advised that the city would continue charging its current sewer fees, but no additional taxes or fees would be imposed on residents.

Butch Frati, director of operations for the city, told council at this month’s work session that storm runoff and sewer water from surrounding municipalities, including the higher-elevated Wilkes-Barre and Plains townships, come through the city’s sanitary and sewer systems, causing costly wear and tear. Those municipalities’ use of Wilkes-Barre’s sewage system combined with the city’s own use cost the city between $700,000 and $900,000 a year in repairs, he said.

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