Washington Township supervisors decided last Thursday night to make every penny count as they will mandate public sewer hookup for five properties in the 1100 block of Route 100 at a cost of $25,000 each.
Those properties, which are all within 150 feet of a sewer line, were previously excluded from mandatory hookup. In 1995, the parcels were exempted because they were on the opposite side of Route 100 from the sewer line. It was deemed extremely difficult and costly to cross Route 100 to connect to sewer.
In September the Washington Township Board of Supervisors disbanded its sewer authority, the Washington Township Municipal Authority (WTMA), and assumed its $12 million debt. Supervisors refinanced the WTMA debt, raised sewer rates to among the highest in the state, and increased taxes by 2 mils to cover the debt.
At the meeting some residents, who are connected to sewer and paid approximately $10,000 for the connection, loudly demanded the board require every property that can connect to sewer do so.
Resident Peg Stuart insisted the board should require such, regardless of the expense or problem involved in connecting.
Stuart Rosenthal, Gilmore Associates, engineers for the township sewer services, explained the five properties need a highway occupancy permit to cross Route 100. The sewer connection must bore across Route 100 and the connections are “barely under the pavement.” Additionally, the sewer connections would require each property to have a grinder pump.
Rosenthal noted in his experience other municipalities would not require a property to connect to sewer if a grinder pump was needed to connect. Grinder pumps frequently break at inopportune times and cause an immediate expense to a property owner over and above the cost to connect to a sewer system, officials said.
Rosenthal also noted to engineer a gravity flow sewer connection down Stauffer Road for the five properties would be just as expensive as crossing Route 100.
Leroy Ruhl, who owns three of the five properties on Route 100, would be assessed over $75,000 for his three small parcels. One of the properties is a trailer and the other is a pole barn used for storage that has no sanitary facilities. Recently, the properties were rezoned commercial. As a result, Ruhl’s tax assessment increased.
Ruhl claimed the trailer on the property would not generate enough revenue in several years to offset the cost of the sewer connection. He later promised supervisors he would tear down his buildings if he had to connect to sewer. He also threatened a lawsuit over the matter.
Ruhl said he had a document from a previous board of supervisors exempting one of his properties from connecting to sewer. Ernest Gehman, township supervisor, noted if Ruhl tears down his building because he is required to hook to sewer, the township would lose the tax revenue on the properties.
Chairperson Tonya Bauer said, “These are not traditional hook ups. They are over and beyond.”
Throughout the meeting George Lewis, a resident of Spring Valley Village, and Stuart continued to press the supervisors to require all possible sewer connections be hooked up.
The board agreed to send a letter to the owners of the five properties to inform them they are required to connect to sewer. The revenue generated by the properties would be approximately $125,000.