WVSA officials respond to stormwater fee complaints
People throughout our area are outraged after opening their stormwater fee bills.
What many thought would only cost a few dollars turned out to be much more and the complaints have been pouring into the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority
"BOOM, these people start walking in here with these huge bills and it was like, 'wow, why are you getting this big bill,'" said Lehman Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Dave Sutton.
The stormwater fee is meant to help clean up polluted water, as mandated by the Clean Water Act.
Places like Lehman Township originally dealt with the regulations themselves, but when more requirements were added, they needed help.
That's when the township, along with 31 other municipalities, turned to WVSA.
"There's power in numbers. The more people involved, the less it should cost per family," said Sutton
Starting this January, and going over the next 5 years, the money is meant to help lower water pollution by 10 percent.
The average fee, according to WVSA, is $4.80 a month, or about 60 dollars a year. But for many, that wasn't the case.
It all comes down to impervious area. That's the part of your property that makes it hard for rain to enter the soil, like roofs, black top, or even dirt driveways.
"As soon as you go over 6,999 square feet by one square foot, you end up being charged $1.70 per 1,000 square feet," explained Sutton
The jump to the $7,000 pricing range would more than double your bill. For some, it was even higher.
"A lot of people are hurting, they're worried, they're upset, they don't know what they're going to do to afford this bill," said Lehman Township resident Marian DeAngelis.
She organized a group to fight the fee and wants the deal with WVSA thrown out all together.
"Everybody in each town should get a group together and knock on their town hall door and tell their leaders 'get us out now,'" she said.
While that is a possibility, officials say as of now there are still too many unknowns.
"We're gonna have to do it one way or another," said Sutton. "We need to see if we can get this thing resolved with Wyoming Valley"
A press conference was held Friday at the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority.
Board members said the people's complaints have been heard and they apologized for any confusion.
They announced they've hired a lawyer to help find a way to lower or get rid of the fee, but coudn't say exactly how they're going to do that.
"Everything is on the table. Everything and anything to make this fair and equitable, and tolerable," said Samuel Guesto, the chairman of the board at WVSA. "We hear the frustration and we're going to work to fix it."
He asks customers to be patient, while promising to keep the public in the loop about what's next.
"It's a process, it's a long process," Guesto said.
Some residents have complained that their property wasn't correctly mapped and that's why they're getting overcharged.
Lehman Township officials say those customers can request a review for free, which should solve the issue, but you would have to pay for further appeals.