Hess residents not yet committed to public water

PAT FRIDGEN

The response from residents of the Hess Development to a letter from Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority requiring them to hook up to public water within 90 days has been mixed. The letter went out by registered mail with a reply due by July 1. As of Monday, no households had returned a signed formal agreement witnessed by a notary public.

GAFCWA manager Kenneth Womack said he had received a few phone calls and letters regarding the agreement details, but noted the people still had three weeks until the deadline.

The May 25 letter stated that if the citizens failed to connect, the authority would do so at the owners' expense. Then Greencastle actually gave the 10 property owners two options so that they could plan in advance for the associated costs: to connect before July 1, 2019; or if sold before then, the new owner would agree to connect within 90 days of title transfer at the fee in effect at the time. Under the agreement, all property owners would also hold GAFCWA harmless and pay all authority expenses from lawsuits or legal matters related to the document. Failure to abide by the agreement, which was based on Antrim Township Ordinance 266 in Chapter 143 of the township code, could land a homeowner in district court for summary offenses, and if convicted, could result in a fine of $1,000 and jail time up to 90 days, plus court costs. Each day of the violation would be a separate offense.

GAFCWA members Greg Rock, Jason Gerhart and Bob Miller decided May 16 to conclude the matter of if/when Hess residents would connect to public water, and authorized Womack and solicitor Jan Sulcove to draft an appropriate letter. In 2007 the residents were first notified that they would have to hook on to a new line that would be laid in their neighborhood in 2008, since it would come within 150 feet of their homes. The authority and Antrim Township supervisors negotiated a deal on a timeline and connection fee, but before the pact was sealed, a new Pennsylvania law took effect. Some supervisors, including Fred Young III, who lives in Hess, thought PA Act 34 of 2008 would exempt the homeowners, but GAFCWA said it did not. The following year the authority offered to purchase Antrim's water system, but after two years of discussions and coming very close to finalizing the transaction, it has been hung up in part due to the connection issue.

The affected homes are located on Kimberly Drive, numbers 11634, 11648, 11665, 11686, 11706; on Lee Drive, 645; and on Lynn Drive, 569 570, 606, and 623. One other resident already connected to public water.

The ordinance

Ordinance 266 of 2000 was adopted Sept. 12, 2000, attested by the signatures of acting chairman Scott Diffenderfer, supervisors BJ Roberts and Larson Wenger, and secretary Renee Perrin. It states that the Second Class Township Code lets townships contract with adjacent municipal corporations to provide water. At the time Antrim did not own a public water system, but purchased a small water treatment plant from Lincoln Utilities in 2003. It serves 340 customers while GAFCWA serves 1,700 borough customers and 455 township customers.

The ordinance continues that whereas Antrim did contract with Greencastle to provide water in certain areas of the township and supervisors could pass an ordinance requiring connection to that system, and the supervisors believed mandatory connection was in the best interest of the residents, therefore Chapter 143 was added to the Code of the Township of Antrim Pennsylvania. The chapter was titled 'Water supply and water works'.