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ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP AND ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP SANITARY AUTHORITY v. MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY CITY MCKEESPORT. TOWNSHIP NORTH VERSAILLES (07/06/82)

decided: July 6, 1982.

ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP AND ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP SANITARY AUTHORITY, APPELLANTS,
v.
MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF MCKEESPORT. TOWNSHIP OF NORTH VERSAILLES, APPELLANT, V. MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF MCKEESPORT



No. 81-1-23, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at Nos. 638 & 640 C.D. 1980, dated February 19, 1981, Reversing the Judgments of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, at Nos. G.D. 77-12037 and G.D. 77-24338, dated February 20, 1980, No. 81-1-24, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 639 C.D. 1980, dated February 19, 1981, Reversing the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division at No. G.D. 77-15210, dated February 20, 1980.

COUNSEL

John A. Caputo, O'Donnell, Bresnahan & Caputo, Pittsburgh, for appellants at No. 23.

G. N. Evashavik, Evashavik, Capone, Evans, DellaVecchia, Pittsburgh, for appellant at No. 24.

John J. Meyers, Liddle & Adams, McKeesport, Gary H. McQuone, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Flaherty, J., joins.

Author: Roberts

[ 498 Pa. Page 478]

OPINION OF THE COURT

At issue is whether there is a right to a trial by jury in an action brought in a court of common pleas to challenge the reasonableness of rates established by a municipal authority. On appeals from judgments of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County entered on a jury's verdict declaring the sewage rates of appellee Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport to be unreasonable, the Commonwealth Court held that it was error to have submitted the case to a jury. We agree with the Commonwealth Court that a challenge to the rates set by a municipal authority is to be decided exclusively by a judge of the court of common pleas. Hence we affirm the order of the Commonwealth Court, 57 Pa. Commw. 13, 426 A.2d 182, vacating the judgments and remanding for non-jury proceedings.*fn1

I

Appellee Municipal Authority was formed by the City of McKeesport pursuant to the Municipal Authorities Act of 1945, Act of May 2, 1945, P.L. 382, § 1 et seq., as amended, 53 P.S. § 301 et seq. (1974 and Supp. 1982), to facilitate the disposal and treatment of sewage originating in the basin area of the Monongahela River. By written agreement executed in 1960, appellee has provided sewage treatment

[ 498 Pa. Page 479]

    services to appellants Elizabeth Township and the Township of North Versailles, two of several municipalities in the area.

The agreement between appellee and appellant townships directs that appellee's schedule of sewage service charges shall be uniform as to reasonable classes of services, shall fix reasonable minimum charges, and shall be calculated to yield the amount required for adequate bond reserves and payment of expenses relating to the sewage system. The agreement further provides that the schedule of charges "shall be adjusted from time to time in such manner as the Authority shall deem necessary or proper to insure the collection of adequate revenues to meet its financial requirements." This provision of the agreement reflects appellee's statutorily conferred right and power "[t]o fix, alter, charge and collect ...


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