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Pennsburg Council Directs Solicitor to ‘Go After’ UMJA
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Pennsburg Borough Council is preparing to engage legally with the Upper Montgomery Joint Authority in a dispute over damage caused last summer by torrential rains. On Tuesday, the members unanimously approved a resolution with language directing Solicitor Daniel Sager to "go after" the wastewater authority on behalf of a handful of residents on Washington Street and the municipality.

            The vote does not mean council has immediate plans to file a lawsuit against the authority, according to council President Diane Stevens. "The solicitor is reviewing the sewer backup flooding that occurred last July," she wrote in a text message after the meeting. "Then we will discuss our options."

            Torrential rains on July 11 caused significant wastewater flooding for four or five properties on Washington Street near Silk Alley and at the Upper Perk Police Department, according to Mayor Vicki Lightcap.

            After the meeting, she explained that the vote empowered Sager to investigate conflicting information over whether or not UMJA would cover the damage created by the flood. According to the mayor, a representative from UMJA – either an authority employee or its insurance adjuster – verbally informed former Solicitor Chuck Garner immediately after the storm that the authority would help cover some of the cost.

            In December, the previous council received a letter from Leon Ritchey, vice president of UMJA, informing the members that its insurance carrier denied liability based on the Pennsylvania Governmental Immunity Statute. The Dec. 16 letter also states that the insurance company advises that its auditor, Toby Bell, denies making any representation of affirmative coverage to anyone, including police Chief Joe Adam, Jr.

            According to Lightcap, the Washington Street residents absorbed "extreme damage" to their properties. She said they suffered several thousand dollars of damage.

            Pennsburg's police station, located at borough hall, suffered more than $50,000 in damage. According to board Vice President Patrick Suter, at least six inches of water collected in both bathrooms. He said the flooding damaged equipment, computers and ruined multiple body armor units.

            After the meeting, Lightcap explained that her residences experienced issues identical to those verbalized by East Greenville mayor Keith Gerhart.

            In December, Gerhart addressed UMJA's board of directors on behalf of Lucinda "Cindi" Drayer, who lives at 713 Hamilton Road. Gerhart said Drayer has spent approximately $10,000 cleaning up her home after sewer water, which shot out of a toilet in a powder room, flooded the entire first floor of her residence.

            The following month, Gerhart said he heard from property owners at 715 and 717 Hamilton Road. He said the first floors of those residents were completely flooded.

            In other news, the members voted to hire a Chester Springs lawyer to handle the borough's police lawsuit with East Greenville. They unanimously approved Chris Gerber as the replacement for Matt Hovey. After the meeting, Stevens described Gerber, who will be paid $265 an hour, as an expert in police divorces. She said Garner recommended Gerber. Council discussed the hire during an executive session prior to the meeting.

            "He's top notch," Stevens said of Gerber, who will represent the borough during a Feb. 14 meeting before Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Tolliver in Norristown.

            Additionally, council voted to spend $3,940 to remove 40 trees and grind 37 stumps in sidewalks in the 300 and 400 blocks of Main Street. The successful bid, awarded to CS Kalb Tree and Landscape, LLC, of Pennsburg, also calls for the removal of five trees along Route 663 near Dunkin Donuts. The trees are causing the sidewalk to lift up, and are a safety issue, according to Stevens.

            Council held a brief executive session near the end of the meeting, but made no decisions before Stevens adjourned the gathering. The members discussed personnel matters, according to the council president.





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