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ANTHONY F. TORNETTA AND RITA E. TORNETTA v. PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY AND WHITPAIN TOWNSHIP SEWER AUTHORITY. WHITPAIN TOWNSHIP (07/29/77)

decided: July 29, 1977.

ANTHONY F. TORNETTA AND RITA E. TORNETTA, HIS WIFE
v.
PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY AND WHITPAIN TOWNSHIP SEWER AUTHORITY. WHITPAIN TOWNSHIP, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of Anthony F. Tornetta and Rita E. Tornetta, his wife v. Plymouth Township Municipal Authority and Whitpain Township Sewer Authority, No. 76-1340.

COUNSEL

Charles A. Kerlavage, for appellant.

Edward J. Hughes, with him John G. Kaufman, and Bean, DeAngelis, Kaufman & Frishberg, for appellees.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Judge Kramer did not participate. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 31 Pa. Commw. Page 354]

The Whitpain Township Sewer Authority (Sewer Authority) has brought this appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County which directed the Sewer Authority to provide service to a property owned by Anthony F. and Rita E. Tornetta (Tornettas).

The Tornettas filed a complaint in equity seeking an injunction to compel either the Sewer Authority or the Plymouth Township Municipal Authority (Municipal Authority) to permit them to use its public sewer system. The Sewer Authority answered the complaint by denying that the Tornettas' property was located within its geographical boundaries and by alleging that sewer service should be rendered by the Municipal Authority pursuant to an agreement between the Sewer Authority and the Municipal Authority. The Municipal Authority answered that it has not been authorized to permit the use of its sewer system by landowners whose property lies outside the boundaries of Plymouth Township. After a hearing, the lower court concluded that it could take jurisdiction of the complaint sitting as an equity court because the Tornettas had no adequate remedy at law, and the court ordered the Sewer Authority to issue a permit enabling the Tornettas to connect to its sewer system. The Sewer Authority appealed this decision to the Superior Court which transferred the matter to us. Now before us is the issue of whether or not the lower court erred in hearing this complaint while sitting as a court of equity.

The Municipality Authorities Act of 1945*fn1 (Act) specifically provides that questions involving rates or services rendered by a municipal authority are to be determined by the court of common pleas:

[ 31 Pa. Commw. Page 355]

B. Every Authority is hereby granted . . . the following rights and powers:

(h) To fix, alter, charge and collect rates and other charges in the area served by its facilities at reasonable and uniform rates to be determined exclusively by it . . . and to determine by itself exclusively the services and improvements required to provide adequate, safe and reasonable service, including extensions thereof, in the areas served. . . . Any person questioning the reasonableness or uniformity of any rate fixed by any Authority or the adequacy, safety and reasonableness of the Authority's services, including extensions thereof, may bring suit against the Authority in the court of common pleas of the county wherein the project is located, or if the project is located in more than one county then in the court of common pleas of the county wherein the principal office of the project is located. The court of common pleas shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine all such questions involving rates or service. (Emphasis added.)

Section 4B(h) of the Act, 53 P.S. ยง 306B(h).

Our Court has previously held that this section of the Act provides the exclusive statutory remedy for one who has been refused service by a municipal authority. Northvue Water Co., Inc. v. Municipal Water & Sewer Authority, 7 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 141, ...


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