Court actions put $6.3 million project in jeopardy

Waynesboro officials say easements needed to continue storm water project

January 19, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Legal proceedings involving a planned, $6.3 million storm water project in the Borough of Waynesboro could delay or cancel the work, borough officials said Wednesday.

At issue are property easements for work on a storm water outfall along Cemetery Avenue. Engineers say the outfall is the major cause of flooding in yards and homes in the south end of town.

Borough Solicitor Sam Wiser said easements are needed from the owners of six properties. Three already signed off, he said.

"We need access (using) the easements to go down and maintain the work that has been done," Borough Engineer Kevin Grubbs said, saying a chain-link fence would be installed and two easements would temporarily support construction equipment.

Agreements with owners of the other three properties could not be reached, causing the borough to file condemnation proceedings, according to Wiser.

The attorney for the property owners, Jim Stein, filed preliminary objections to condemnation proceedings, Wiser said. That could lead to lengthy and expensive court proceedings, he said.

The matters in court could affect the low-interest loan approved by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, commonly called PENN-VEST, Wiser said.

"PENNVEST won't let us close on the financing until the easements ... are resolved. It's really kind of hampered the project," he said.

The affected property owners started talking to the Waynesboro Borough Council years ago about storm water damage to their yards and homes. Flooding during June 2006 rains caused exceptional issues within the system.

"We thought there would be more cooperation because there had been issues in the past," Wiser said.

Stein did not return a call to his home Wednesday night.

In a previous interview, Wiser described the condemnation process. He said the first step is filing a "declaration of taking" in court for the rights of way, which would be appraised and a fair market value paid to the existing property owners.

The rights of way would be a few feet on each side of the existing outfall, he said.

"We're not taking the properties," Grubbs said. "We're not widening the outfall itself."

Arches under roads would be widened, Grubbs said previously.

Borough council members asked Grubbs and Wiser questions during their meeting Wednesday. Councilman Ronnie Martin said he's prepared to ask at the next meeting that the project be killed, despite the money already spent for engineering.

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