CANONSBURG – Canonsburg Borough Council and the Canonsburg-Houston Joint Authority discussed a plan Tuesday that could, one day, allow the authority to handle its day-to-day operations independently.
A memorandum of understanding was discussed that would make Canonsburg’s and Houston’s sewer authority an autonomous entity if it’s approved by both boroughs, along the same lines as the Washington-East Washington Joint Authority. Canonsburg and Houston would still appoint members to the authority board, but the 11 employees of the sewer plant would be directly employed by the authority rather than by Canonsburg, and the authority would have the power to float bonds to pay off debt.
The authority’s plant, on Curry Hill Road, would continue to be owned by the authority, and it would be a transfer of management, “not to sell the plant,” said Mike Alterio, the chairman of the authority’s board.
“There is no question who owns the plant, so why would we buy it from ourselves?” he added.
As part of the agreement, if approved, Canonsburg would receive $3 million from the authority for economic benefits it’s estimated the borough would derive from the current arrangement over a 57-year span, such as shared office space and equipment, according to Glenn Alterio, the authority’s solicitor. If the plan goes through, Houston would receive a similar, but smaller, payment.
Residents in parts of Cecil, Chartiers and North Strabane townships are customers of the authority because they have no processing plant of their own. Michael Witherel, an attorney representing North Strabane’s sewer authority, questioned the $3 million payment, wondered if there would be a rate increase and said making the Canonsburg-Houston Joint Authority into an independent operating authority is “not that big of a deal.”
Mike Alterio said there would be no rate increase. He also said a possible switch would not change the employment status of the sewer plant’s employees. “We would not do that to our own people,” he said.
The authority is also looking at a series of upgrades at the 50-year-old sewer plant to comply with Pennsylvania’s Act 537, which mandates that municipalities keep their sewage treatment plants up to date.