Young asks water authority to pay his legal fees in hookup suit

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
FRED YOUNG III

Because he considers the appeal by Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority unwarranted, Fred Young III would like the board to reimburse him for legal fees in which he was the victor in court.

Young spoke to the authority Dec. 21, reading from a prepared statement to members Mark Divelbiss, Bud O’Mara, Jason Gerhart, Rodney Rose, and manager Susan Armstrong. Greg Rock was absent.

The water authority had sued Young and his wife Mary Ann, and Thomas and Deborah Moore, for not hooking up to municipal water when it laid a new line in their subdivision in 2007. Nine other households had connected, after being notified to do so in 2011. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Angela Krom had ruled in favor of the Youngs and Moores, because of the late date of the notice, and the enactment of PA Act 34 of 2008 in the interim. Judges in the Appellate Court in Harrisburg this fall upheld Krom’s rationale.

“You probably think I’m here to celebrate or gloat because I won the lawsuit,” Young said. “That’s not the case at all. We all lost a lot.”

He said he had spent $2,000 in attorney fees on the appeal, while the Moores and the water authority had spent more. He was exploring Pennsylvania law on the possibility of filing for recovery of his expenses. He had not hired a lawyer for the initial lawsuit, he continued, but spent countless hours in research to represent himself at the county level.

Referring to himself and his Hess Development neighbors, he stated, “We are not the enemy. We just happen to live in a neighborhood built in the 70s, in the path of a new water line.”

Calling for ethical behavior, Young asked the board to acknowledge the financial and emotional stress of the defendants, reimburse their legal fees, be transparent on all affiliated costs accumulated by the water authority, and understand that its solicitor was the only winner in the case. He got paid no matter the outcome.

Young also said only Rose had approached him on the case, and apologized that the couples had to go through what they did.

Gerhart asked Young to wrap up his comments.

He replied, “I deserve this time. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves for wasting your rate-payers’ money. We all lost.”

Rose later confirmed that he had spoken to Young.

He had apologized for the length of time it took to conclude the case.

“I didn’t think there was a win on any side because of the negative view on the authority, and the financial impact on the two families.”

He did not support pursuing the appeal, and in executive session had abstained on the vote to move forward, he said. He added that he, an attorney himself, had seen nothing legally wrong with Krom’s original opinion.

“After reviewing the initial determination, I didn’t feel we had enough of a leg to stand on in an appeal.”

At the Feb. 16 public meeting, Gerhart, Divelbiss and Rock supported pursuing the matter. They hired Black & Davison attorney Elliott Sulcove to handle the appeal. O'Mara and Rose were absent.