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Scott Township Sewer and Water Authority v. Ease Simulation

August 6, 2010

THE SCOTT TOWNSHIP SEWER AND WATER AUTHORITY AND SCOTT TOWNSHIP
v.
EASE SIMULATION, INC. D/B/A, EASE DIAGNOSTICS, APPELLANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jim Flaherty, Senior Judge

Submitted: April 23, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

SENIOR JUDGE FLAHERTY

Ease Simulation, Inc. d/b/a, Ease Diagnostics (Ease) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County (trial court), which entered judgment in favor of The Scott Township Sewer and Water Authority and Scott Township (collectively, Authority) and ordered Ease to pay $16,000.00 in unpaid charges for water, sewer and fire protection. We affirm.

The Authority instituted this action for the collection of unpaid charges for water, sewer and fire protection. Ease challenged the fee imposed by the Authority, claiming it was unreasonable. The parties submitted a stipulation of facts, an expert's report and also presented witness testimony at the non-jury trial.

The trial court determined that the Authority adopted a rate structure which encompasses both water and sewer service and the availability of water for fire protection purposes. Of the monthly fee charged by the Authority to Ease, $147.16 represents the fire protection portion of the rate. The Authority charges Ease a base sewer and water rate of $750.00 per month, which includes the first 20,000 gallons of water used/consumed. Ease's average monthly water usage for the period of January 1, 2007 through July 31, 2007 was 3,429 gallons per month. The Authority is providing sufficient amounts of water to meet the needs of Ease and is able to meet the projected future water needs of Ease, if they were to increase.

In addition, the Authority's fire protection system is fully functioning. The Authority's fire hydrant locations, while not ideal, do not disqualify them from providing Ease with adequate fire protection and the fire hydrants meet the standards required to provide fire protection to Ease.

The trial court concluded that the rate charged by the Authority is reasonable, that the Authority's system offers appropriate service to Ease's property in the event of a fire and ordered Ease to pay the Authority $16,000.00 in unpaid charges for water, sewer and fire protection. This appeal followed.*fn1

Initially, the first issue we address is whether the rates charged by the Authority are reasonable as required by the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act (Act), 53 Pa. C.S. §§ 5601-5623. In accordance with 53 Pa. C.S. § 5607 an authority has the following power:

(d) Powers.-Every authority may exercise all powers necessary or convenient for the carrying out of the purposes set forth in this section, including, but without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following rights and powers:

***

(9) 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 for the purpose of providing for the payment of the expenses of the authority, the construction, ...


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