Findlay Park residents seek solutions to sewage woes

April 11, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Findlay Park residents peppered the Mercersburg Borough Council with questions Monday regarding a sewage pumping station being operated with a generator after the developer of their subdivision stopped paying electric bills.

Borough of Mercersburg public works employees have been filling the generator with diesel fuel and running it almost daily to move sewage through the system. Borough Manager Tammy Oberholzer said electricity was turned off to the pumping station by PPL three times after Dorsey Builders failed to pay the bill for the privately owned facility.

The borough paid the bill the first time to restore electricity, Oberholzer said. Dorsey Builders paid it the second time, and the generator has been in use since March 22, when sewage leaked from a manhole, she said.

If the pumping station did not move sewage, it would back up into homes, according to Oberholzer.

Mercersburg Mayor James Zeger encouraged concerned residents to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Franklin County, Pa., legislators. Oberholzer said DEP representatives visited the site last week.

“DEP should be the bulldog here,” Zeger said.

One woman, who declined to give her name, said she feels the situation has progressed beyond what letter-writing would help.

“This is a state of emergency,” she said.

Three bench warrants have been issued through action filed in Magisterial District Judge David Hawbaker’s office for violations of the Uniform Construction Code, according to Oberholzer. Copies of those bench warrants list Dorsey Builders of Sykesville, Md., as well as company president Phillip Dorsey.

Dorsey did not return calls from The Herald-Mail to his office and home. Oberholzer said the borough has not been able to reach him by phone or email.

Part of the development west of the split of Pa. 16 and Pa. 75 is in Peters Township, and a portion is in Mercersburg borough. The developer did not turn over ownership of the pumping station, roads, sewer lines or water lines to the municipalities and water/sewer authorities.

“The developer is legally obligated to maintain that pumping station and make sure it’s operational,” Borough Solicitor Sam Wiser said.

Borough officials said they’re running the pumping station to keep sewage out of homes. They’ve also plowed roads in the development of single-family houses.

“Legally, they’re not our roads, and we’re trespassing every time we plow them,” Wiser said.

Residents asked why they’re facing problems with the pumping station, which is in Peters Township, when they pay water and sewer bills, as well as taxes.

“At this point, the borough does not own the pumping station. It does not own the ground it’s on, and it does not own the lines,” Wiser said.

John Freeland, who moved to Findlay Park five years ago, said the borough needs to fix the problem.

“We do not have the clout over the developer. ... The borough had responsibility for allowing the developer to do what he’s done,” Freeland said.

The borough tapped into an escrow account to finish some infrastructure work, Zeger said. Municipal officials don’t understand why he has not signed over the roads and lines, he said.

“We are equally as frustrated as you are because we’ve literally chased this developer around for months. ... It has become a public health, safety and welfare problem,” Wiser said.

Residents said they initially paid fees to a property owners’ association administered by Phillip Dorsey. In interviews Sunday, they said they balked when he tried to turn over the association without completing several items, such as installing a fence around a storm water basin and creating a playground.

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