Perano v. ORD Sewer Authority, 2012 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 184 (2012)
|Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire|
This matter addressed the issue of whether a local sewer authority is permitted to assess monthly sewage charges against a property owner who has not connected his property to the sewer system. Frank T. Perano (“Perano”) is the owner of the Frenchtown Mobile Park (“Park”) situated in Decatur Township (“Township”), Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. From its inception, the Park has been serviced by an on-lot sewage treatment system. In or about 2007, the ORD Sewer Authority (“Authority”) installed a public sewage system (“System”) in the area and, soon thereafter, the Township enacted an ordinance (“Ordinance”) mandating that all property owners in the vicinity of the System connect their properties to the System. Pursuant to this Ordinance, in December of 2007, the Authority sent Perano a notice advising him that he was required to connect the Park to the System. Perano failed to do so and, in September of 2008 and June of 2009, the Authority sent him additional notices directing him to connect the Park to the System. Perano ignored these notices and, in March of 2010, the Authority sent him a notice advising that he owed an overdue balance for unpaid sewage bills, and that water service to the Park would be terminated if this balance was not paid.
In April of 2010, Perano filed a petition in the Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to Section 3(a)(3) of the Utility Service Tenants Rights Act (“Act”) (68 P.S. § 399.3(a)(3)), contending that the Authority lacked the power to terminate water service to the Park. In response, the Authority asserted that its previous correspondences with Perano placed him on notice of his obligation to connect the Park to the System, that the provision of such notice authorized the Authority to assess Perano for sewage charges, and that his failure to pay these charges constituted grounds for the termination of water service. A non-jury trial was held and the court entered a verdict for the Authority, concluding that it did in fact have the right to terminate water service to the Park based upon Perano’s failure to pay the requisite charges.
On appeal, our Commonwealth Court affirmed. In issuing its ruling, the court noted that 53 Pa.C.S. § 5607 authorizes a municipal authority to take all actions necessary to, inter alia, collect charges for services provided by its facilities. In this instance, the Ordinance required all property owners in the vicinity to connect their properties to the System, and permitting a property owner to refuse to connect to the sewage system would compromise the integrity of the system, and have negative financial implications. As Perano had been provided with notice of his obligation to connect to the System, and had failed to do so, the Authority was authorized to assess sewage charges against him, and his failure to pay these charges constituted grounds for the termination of water service to the Park.