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Scranton Sewer Authority Settles One Of Two Neighboring Easement Condemnations For $46G; The Other Still Under Negotiation

January 5, 2019

SCRANTON — The Scranton Sewer Authority agreed to pay $46,250 to settle one of two neighboring condemnations of missing sewer-line easements near underground overflow storage tanks. The settled condemnation involved Keystone Concrete Block and Supply Co., 600 Glenn St. The other condemnation involving nearby Stone Facility LP, 1300 Meylert Ave. at Glenn Street, remains pending in Lackawanna County Court, where Senior Judge Carmen Minora held a private conference in the case Friday. The two condemnations are among several legal disputes arising from SSA’s sale of the sewer system to Pennsylvania American Water that closed Dec. 29, 2016. In the lead-up to the sale, the authority in mid-December 2016 filed condemnations of missing sewer-line easements on Keystone Concrete Block and Supply and Stone Facility. These properties are across the street from a federally mandated sewer-upgrade project called the Von Storch (Avenue) combined sewer overflow, or CSO. This project, mostly completed by the sewer authority in 2016, involved construction of large tanks and pipes underground to capture and hold sewer and stormwater overflows in times of heavy rain. The overflow would get released, after storms subside, back into the sewer line for transmission to the wastewater treatment plant. The property owners opposed the condemnations. The Keystone Concrete settlement was finalized Dec. 18 in a “joint stipulation to settle and discontinue” the dispute, after the SSA board approved the settlement in October. The Stone Facility condemnation/appeal case remains unresolved, authority solicitor Jason Shrive said Friday. Efforts to contact Stone Facility’s attorney Friday were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, lawsuits against the SSA pending in county court include: ■ Anthony Moses vs. Scranton, Dunmore, the SSA and two law firms involved in the 2016 sewer sale. This 2017 lawsuit claims the SSA’s disbursement of $87 million in proceeds from the sewer sale violated state law. The suit claims the SSA was allowed to expend money only for purposes directly related to its mission and was prohibited from transferring proceeds to Scranton and Dunmore for their general welfare and for paying sewer sale legal bills. This suit seeks to have proceeds of $70 million to Scranton and $17 million to Dunmore, and $456,000 in payments of legal bills to the law firms, all returned to the SSA and placed in escrow until the authority settles all of its outstanding claims. The main outstanding claim comes from an earlier class-action lawsuit over missing easements. ■ Hadley et. al. vs SSA, the class-action suit filed in November 2016 involving 600 properties inexplicably missing sewer-line easements to allow for emergency access to properties for repairs to sewer lines, if ever needed. In summer 2016, the SSA offered a choice of $100 per missing easement or condemnation. But the class-action plaintiffs, one of whom is Moses, rejected the $100 offers as pittances for properties they now viewed as greatly devalued by the discovery of sewer lines through properties or under homes. During the most recent monthly SSA board meeting on Dec. 27, Shrive said the SSA still has on its plate the pending lawsuits, as well as dealing with concerns of former ratepayers and resolving sewer liens. “There are still a large number of easements outstanding,” Shrive said. “We’re still trying to negotiate a settlement” of the class-action suit. Contact the writer: jlockwood@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlockwoodTT on Twitter

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