Faced with federal requirements to have residential sewer laterals inspected by the end of the year as part of a multi-million dollar sewer upgrade project in compliance with the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Act, South Williamsport Borough officials continue to deal with a handful of people who have not given in.
The problem boils down to about five homeowners who "just refuse to cooperate with the project and have refused to get lateral inspections done," according to Councilman Benjamin E. Landon, who suggested Monday night that the borough get tougher on violators.
His recommendation to impose stronger enforcement measures was too vague for Councilmen Anthony Mussare and Robert Cronin, however.
Landon suggested the borough could surcharge noncompliant homeowners, put their property up for sheriff's sale or do the work on behalf of the owner and charge them by way of a lien.
Cronin asked if the borough even has the ability to undertake such measures without having a pre-existing policy.
"I find it hard to believe that you can punish these people for standards (that don't exist)," he said.
"These are people who for three years have refused to have an inspection done," responded Landon. "There is a federal mandate on the books to do this project."
Landon likened the idea to addressing codes violations when a homeowner's grass is too tall.
Joseph F. Orso III, borough solicitor, agreed that the municipality could undertake any or all of the actions.
"They obeyed the mandate that was sent down," Councilman Edward Weinhoffer said of those who already have had sewer lateral inspections. "Five people who are going to hold this borough up? This is crazy."
While Cronin and Mussare voted no on Landon's motion, the rest of council approved it.
Council also debated what to do with unpaid sewer bills that are collected by the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority. Councilman Richard D. Harris Jr. said that $75,000 in uncollected bills is unacceptable. One of those bills is for $22,000 alone, he said.
"We have to do something. We can't raise somebody's sewer rates when somebody like that doesn't pay," Harris said.
Borough Manager Michael D. Miller said the issue is being resolved - although slowly - through the court system.
"This is not a short turnaround process," he told council.
Orso and Councilman Henry Frey Jr. said the authority, which took over borough sewer bill collection duties in July 2011, is doing a good job.
"From my review, I think they are moving the collection process along," Orso said.
"There really is no problem," added Frey. "They are doing their job and they're doing what we asked them to do."