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BLOOMSBURG MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY v. BLOOMSBURG COOPERATIVE CANNERS (04/14/64)

April 14, 1964

BLOOMSBURG MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY, APPELLANT,
v.
BLOOMSBURG COOPERATIVE CANNERS, INC., APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 40 and 42, and 43, Oct. T., 1964, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Columbia County, March T., 1961, No. 30, and from decree, Jan. T., 1962, No. 1, in cases of Municipal Authority of Town of Bloomsburg v. Bloomsburg Cooperative Canners, Inc.; and Bloomsburg Cooperative Canners, Inc. v. Municipal Authority of Town of Bloomsburg. Decree and judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Donald A. Lewis, for Municipal Authority.

Hervey B. Smith, with him Francis B. Haas, Jr., and McNees, Wallace & Nurick, and Smith, Eves and Keller, for property owner.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.

Author: Flood

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 395]

OPINION BY FLOOD, J.

The Bloomsburg Municipal Authority fixed a sewer rental for industrial sewage of the Bloomsburg Cooperative Canners, Inc. The rental is made up of three elements: (1) a basic charge computed upon 85% (advanced in 1960 to 95%) of all metered water entering the plant; (2) a surcharge of 100% (reduced in 1960 to 65%) of the basic charge because of certain material particularly difficult for the authority's plant to dispose of; and (3) a standby charge of 50% of the total rental charged for the highest quarter of the fiscal year for any quarter in which the rental otherwise falls below this amount. Upon appeal by the cannery, the court of common pleas (1) reduced the basic charge from 95% to 65% of water consumption; (2) reduced the surcharge from 100% to 65% not only prospectively but also retroactively to 1958; and (3) reduced the standby charge from 50% to 5% of the total billing for

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 396]

    the highest quarter of the previous fiscal year. Both parties have appealed.*fn1

The authority derives its powers directly from the Municipality Authorities Act of May 2, 1945, P.L. 382, as amended (53 PS § 301 et seq.). Whitemarsh Township Authority v. Elwert, 413 Pa. 329, 196 A.2d 843 (1964). Under § 4B(h) of that act (53 PS § 306B(H)), the authority has the power to fix "reasonable and uniform rates to be determined exclusively by it", and the burden of proof as to the impropriety of the rates charged is upon the rate-payer (See Rankin v. Chester Municipal Authority, 165 Pa. Superior Ct. 438, 68 A.2d 458 (1949)).

I. The authority originally based the cannery's sewer rate upon 85% of the metered water entering the plant, but in 1961 it increased this rate from 85% to 95% when, at the same time, it decreased the surcharge from 100% to 65%. In the absence of a showing of special circumstances, such as the fact that a substantial part of the metered water entering the plant did not reach the sewage system or that a substantial amount of unmetered water was entering the system, a percentage of metered water consumption as determined by the authority is a proper basis for sewer rates. Philadelphia Petition, 343 Pa. 47, 21 A.2d 876 (1941).

At the time of the increase of the base rate the authority had in its possession cannery figures showing that more than 27% of water consumption did not reach the sewer line. On this evidence, a holding that a basic charge premised on 95% of water consumption is unjustified is a proper exercise of ...


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