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Township might sue over unpaid ethanol plant bill

May 11, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Penn-Mar Ethanol could find itself in Franklin County Common Pleas Court again, not in a dispute with opponents over its proposed ethanol production facility, but with Greene Township in a dispute over an unpaid bill.

The Greene Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize its solicitor to file a complaint against Penn-Mar for failure to pay a $44,881.71 invoice for review fees, Chairman Charles D. Jamison said Wednesday. He referred all other questions to the township's attorney, who did not return a phone call Wednesday.

A complaint had not been filed by the township as of Wednesday, according to the county Prothonotary's Office.

"We realize that the township is under pressure from project opponents to scrutinize every detail, but to conduct this level of review and send out a $44,000 bill not allowed for under the Municipalities Planning Code when our land development plan wasn't even reviewed is clearly unreasonable," Penn-Mar Ethanol President Dan Wolf said in a statement released by the York, Pa.-based partnership.

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"The Municipal Planning Code defines what fees a municipality can pass on to an applicant," Penn-Mar Project Manager Scott Welsh said. "The township never did any review of the land development plan itself."

Penn-Mar submitted its land development plan to the township on May 27, 2005, but the review process was halted by a stay issued by Judge Richard Welsh three weeks later, according to Penn-Mar's statement. In November, Walsh ruled in favor of Citizens for a Quality Environment and other opponents of the project on a zoning appeal, and the plan was denied by the township without review the following month, according to the statement.

Penn-Mar has appealed Walsh's decision to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

The Penn-Mar statement read that the invoice included fees for services provided by consulting engineer Nassuax-Hemsley Inc. and ENSR, an environmental consulting firm, and that the "vast majority of the work done ... was related to issues regulated" by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, not the township.

"Eighty-four percent of the fees invoiced were incurred either before Penn-Mar submitted its LDP (land development plan), or after the stay was imposed," the statement read.

"I'm really glad the township is paying attention and realizes that Penn-Mar Ethanol is all smoke and mirrors," said DeEtta Antoun, the director of Citizens for a Quality Environment. "If you've got an $85 million ethanol distillery project, this is chump change," she said of the invoice.

"It's imprudent not to pay" the bill if Penn-Mar Ethanol plans to continue doing business with the township, Antoun said.

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