Sewer to increase, taxes remain in draft of Clarks Summit budget

First Posted: 12/1/2014

A draft of the 2015 Clarks Summit Borough council budget includes an increase in monthly sewer charges. Sewer rates are proposed to increase to $52 a month, raised from the current $47. Council discussed verbiage for an insert explaining the increase, expected to be mailed with the January sewer bills, at the Nov. 25 council work session.

The insert will explain the two components contributing to the sewer increase: the financial obligations by the borough of Clarks Summit and the Abington Regional Wastewater Authority (ARWA) for the collection and processing and treatment of sewage, and the unfunded mandate of the federal government’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System regulations, or MS4. The borough is required to comply with MS4 regulations over the next decade, and noncompliance would result in severe penalties for the borough.

These two factors have “created a substantial increase to both the operational cost of ARWA…and also to the cost associated with the borough’s storm water management,” according to draft verbiage for the insert read by councilmember Vincent Cruciani.

The tax rate in the proposed budget is to remain as is so, if approved, Clarks Summit property owners will not face an increase to the current 29.5 millage rate in 2015.

Also, newly hired part-time Clarks Summit police officer Matt Karam will be officially sworn in by Mayor Patty Lawler Dec. 3 at the regular borough council meeting. Council voted to hire Karam Nov. 5.

In other news, the curative amendment to zoning at 3 Front St. has been “officially withdrawn,” according to Borough Manger Virginia Kehoe, who said Charles Hibble is no longer interested in the property. Numerous residents addressed council regarding their concerns if the Front Street property zoning was amended to an RP at the Nov. 5 regular council meeting.

However, a similar request has been made for a curative amendment at 110 Maple St. to change the zoning of the property from an R1, or low density residential district, to a CC, or central commercial district.

Kehoe said the owners of the Maple Street property claim at one point the property was zoned as commercial and that if they intend on selling the property in the future, they feel it would be more appropriate to sell as a commercial property. “They don’t have a potential buyer or anything,” said Kehoe.

Council members Herman Johnson and Pat Williams stated concerns they want to avoid spot zoning. “I just want to make sure we’re headed in the right direction…or that we aren’t headed toward a lawsuit,” said Johnson.

“I don’t think we should start infringing on the residential area,” Williams said.

“Just because something is zoned R1, doesn’t mean that that’s the right way to have it zoned,” Kehoe said, adding the curative amendment is the argument that a property is improperly zoned, and it’s up to the requestor to show the property is not zoned appropriately.

Borough Solicitor Attorney Dan Mulhern stated, “It’s not completely clear either way,” and that the property is not completely surrounded by commercial zoning. The requestor will need to present the case at the public meeting, where residents will have a chance to speak.

Also at the work session, Tom Rose, Clarks Summit, addressed council and requested the borough research banning electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, because of unknown health effects, and the potential influence on children because there is no minimum age limit to purchase them.

“At least in public places, it should follow the same as tobacco laws,” said Rose.

Kehoe agreed to reach out to the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs to research other municipalities draft ordinances on e-cigarettes, and will draft a letter to the state from council regarding the issue.

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