Monday, December 15, 2008

Looks like White is right

I'm no expert on the issue of public infrastructure, and I don't know all the ins and outs of the current dispute over the Millers Run sewerage project, but it looks more and more as if state Rep. Jesse White is on the right course to demand more accountability of the officials in Cecil Township. A story in the O-R last week noted that with about 120 households still not hooked into the new sewer system, the supervisors in Cecil Township are now trying to find ways to help residents afford the $6,000 tap-in fees. Township Supervisor Phyllis Zaccarino says her board is now considering setting up joint financial workshops with Cecil Township Municipal Authority in order to help residents find ways to meet that cost. White notes that he had a financial assistance workshop for the same people in the spring, and the township authority refused to get involved. Said White, "The township missed that party by about nine months, and it was a party they were invited to and didn't bother to attend." He said the authority wouldn't even buy the stamps to send out notices to residents about the workshop, something he was not allowed to do because of restrictions on him as a candidate for re-election. The lawmaker suspects that the township's actions now are based more on politics than a true desire to help the residents. He said the township's actions may be too little and way too late, explaining that state funding for infrastructure improvements is administered through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, but only at the start of a project. I spoke with a friend who has considerable knowledge in this area, and he said Cecil Township officials dragged their feet on pursuing public sewerage in that area, refusing to do anything and allowing raw sewage to foul Millers Run until the DEP essentially put a gun to Cecil Township's head and forced the officials to take action. He said if township officials had moved on the project when first pressed to do so, there would have been considerably more public funding available. Now, residents are faced with a $6,000 bill in order to tap in. Zaccarino said the township is "considering financial arrangements" for folks who have financial hardships. That's all well and good, but then "bad cop" Dennis Bell, the township authority manager, added, "We are willing to work with them if they would come in and talk to us. Do they think we are just going to go away?" No, I'm sure they don't think you're going to forget about them. But how many among us can afford to plunk down $6,000 to tap into a sewer system? I know I don't have that kind of money lying about. And setting up a payment play isn't going to cut it for some folks, either. There are a lot of people around here who are robbing Peter to pay Paul just in order to meet the financial obligations they have now. Some of them are falling short, and the last thing they need is another monthly bill. It's a shame they're being put in this position.



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