Derry Borough officials are looking to update a sewer lateral testing ordinance that would reduce costs for residents selling their homes.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, officials discussed the current ordinance — adopted in December 2018 — which requires that borough properties pass a sewer lateral inspection before they can be sold.
“Basically, it just makes it really, really hard for people to sell their houses in the borough ... and expensive,” council member Sara Cowan said of the ordinance. “Most of our pipes are terra cotta and are very old ... Some people are having to put in $10,000 to 12,000 just for a new sewage lateral.”
Council president Grant Nicely took issue with the Derry Borough Municipal Authority for “stacking ordinances” against residents when conducting inspection and testing of sewer laterals. He said residents should receive a set checklist of items that need to be taken care of on their sewer lines before they can sell their home.
“There should be a set, A, B, C, D — done, type of deal. But what I have found is, we have A, B, C, D, but while we were doing C, we found we need to add E, F and G on to this ... they (DBMA) are stacking the ordinance,” he said. “...To me that’s not kosher, but it is in this ordinance. They can do that.”
Officials noted that the majority of costs for residents to fix sewer laterals are associated with digging.
“Part of this needs to fall back on the municipal authority. If they run their backhoe and charge the standard $100 to $200 to dig the pipes up, then the homeowner can get the plumber, get the supplies and have the work done,” Nicely said. “And then (DBMA) can run back over and fill the hole back in. It’s not difficult ... That’s saving the resident, the homeowner, the individual ... money.”
Council on Tuesday organized a committee to brainstorm changes to the ordinance which consists of Cowan, Jim Ritenour and Barbara Phillips.
“I understand the ordinance and why we have it, because this is how we improve our town’s infrastructure,” Cowan said. “But it’s just, how much is too much for our residents?”
Solicitor Lee Demosky recommended that council not repeal the ordinance, because “that’s going to limit the authority the DBMA has to enforce it, which would cause an issue with the DEP.”
Earlier this year, DBMA approved conducting a flow study on the authority’s sanitary sewer system at a monthly cost of $10,000. The flow study, which is part of a five-year corrective action plan with the DEP, is needed to help the authority identify areas where stormwater is making its way into the sanitary sewer system. The flow study will help pinpoint areas where stormwater infiltration is heaviest.
Earlier in the meeting, Nicely told council that smoke- and dye-testing is being conducted at every house in the borough per Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) requirements.
“There have been some comments on why the water authority is doing smoke and dye testing in the Fourth Ward ... that is an MS4 thing. That is not a DBMA thing,” Nicely said. “...One of the things that is mandated for us, because we are a small town with old infrastructure, is that every house in town will be smoke and dye tested. Every ward will have a flow meter put in.”
In updating the sewer lateral ordinance, Nicely said “it will make it easier on the water authority, and much better for the residents once it’s amended.”
In other business, council approved ordinance No. 790 which regulates days of open fire and burning in the borough. Now, open burning of yard waste — including trees, logs, brush and stumps — is only allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Nicely said the ordinance was updated “so it’s simplified for everybody. We have two days a week: Tuesdays and Saturdays — every week, every month.”
Camp or recreational fires are permitted at any time, while burning hazardous items such as garbage and plastics remains prohibited in the borough.
Borough officials on Tuesday went over the procedure for enforcing illegal burning.
“We want them to call 911 and have a dispatch for the (Derry Volunteer Fire Department) and (Derry Borough Police Department),” Mayor Alanna DeRito-Gaudiello said. “That way the fire department can verify that it is an illegal substance, and then we write the citation accordingly with what they said.”
Added Demosky: “The beauty of having a trained fire person responding is it provides the prosecution with a perfect witness ... and they can testify that it was that kind of substance,” which provides more credibility when filing a charges with District Judge Mark Bilik.
Also on Tuesday, council appointed Barbara Phillips as its newest member. She was sworn in following the regular monthly meeting.
In her letter of interest, which was read aloud, Phillips stated, “I have been a bookkeeper for almost 40 years in various industries in cities large and small.
“I am an organizer with great attention to detail. I love the small-town life of Derry Borough but believe that to progress and keep up with the times, we need to leave the small-town ideas behind, embrace the present and look to the future.
“I have lived in the borough for 20 years, moving here from Florida. Most of these years I have been a passive resident, seeing both good and bad. I want to be a contributor to our community and not just a bystander.”
In other business, council approved:
- 2021 MMO for non-uniform pension plan for $19,715;
- Hiring Kris Shoup as a part-time seasonal laborer, effective Sept. 3;
- Modifying vehicles and traffic stop intersections established and establishing North Ligonier Street Extension as the control way;
- A resolution tied to a new contract agreement with Waste Management Inc.;
- Advertising for a vacancy on the board of directors of DBMA for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2022.