Summit Hill Borough Council members appear resolved to add a sewage facilities fee to the bills of residents connected to the sanitary sewerage system in the near future.

It's just not sure how much that fee will be.

A special meeting of the council was held last night during which dialogue centered on improving the system, which according to Councilman Michael Alabovitz, "nothing has been done since 1920 except for repairs."

The council is hoping that work can be done a little at a time, possibly a block in the community every year or two.

Council President Michael Kokinda said, "If we do a block every two years, and it takes 100 years to get it done, at least we're doing something."

Residents shouldn't expect the construction work to begin immediately. Before the upgrades can start, council members said an engineering study will have to occur to determine what areas will be prioritized and how the upgrades should progress. He said it could be about three years before actual physical work begins.

There were 14 residents in attendance besides the borough council members.

One of the biggest concerns of council members is that apparently many residents have basement drains connected to the sewage system. The council said it will look for a way to crack down on such hookups and force those residents to use sump pumps or alternate means to remove water from their basements.

Council members said it would be too expensive to get basement drains directly connected to storm water drains. Sump pumps should pump the water from basements into exterior storm drains, the council said.

Some discussion at the meeting pivoted to the condition of the storm water drains. One resident said cleaning the drains hasn't happened for a long time.

An attendee at the meeting said there was an area of the storm water drain where a tunnel has been sealed off, leaving the storm water with no place to go.

The main discussion was on the central sewage system and how it has to be upgraded.

Sheree Parsons, a resident of the borough, remarked of imposing a sewage facilities fee, "I don't think this is a choice. We don't really have a choice."

She noted that because of the inadequate system, sewage backup has occurred in some basements. She presented the council with a list of 16 sewage-related illnesses.

"You can't have people exposed, especially children, to raw sewage," she said.

She added that such backups of sewage also has a detrimental effect on property values in the borough.

The council said the sewage facilities fee would be applied only to residents connected to the central sewage system. Residents such as those living in the White Bear section of the borough who aren't connected to the system wouldn't have to pay the annual fee.

It was also stressed that any fee imposed will be placed in a separate borough account and can be used only for sewage system upgrades.

Stanley Zuber, a borough resident, asked, "Does council have a written plan for what is to be suggested or perceived? I don't see how council can proceed without a written plan."

Alabovitz said the borough engineer has done some written work. He said he will be consulting with the engineer and expects to have more information at the July 9 meeting of the council.

A resident asked if property owners with vacant homes will be given exemptions to the fee like they are garbage collection fees.

Council members assured that any home or business owner who has a sewage connection will have to pay the facilities fee when it is imposed.