Tamaqua has responsibility to refund sewer money
To Tamaqua Borough Council. In August of 2011 we were shocked to receive a 'Notice to Connect' letter from the Borough of Tamaqua stating that the building we own on West Broad Street was illegally discharging wastewater into the Wabash Creek. Further, it stated that we had 60 days to connect to the City Sewer system, entirely at our own expense, otherwise risking "Legal Action" by the Borough.
In 2006 we scraped together enough money to purchase this building hoping it might someday be a decent investment. During the initial process each unit in the building was fully inspected, licensed and deemed 100 percent in compliance by Tamaqua Borough Code Inspector YOUR representative. There was never any indication; either in writing or verbally, that there was any problem of this kind or that this was in fact an ongoing issue that the borough has been very well aware of for decades.
For the five years we have owned this building, we have been good neighbors and diligently and in good faith, paying our taxes, our utilities, and most specifically, our sewer bills, which as of the date of this letter, has totaled over $4,000 for sewer alone.
By even the most basic standards of legal, moral and ethical obligations, the municipality is required to provide the service for which they are billing and receiving payments.
It would also seem legally and ethically necessary that once you finally decided to act on this issue after many years of ignoring it, that the borough would immediately refund or credit the monies billed and received to the homeowner, or at least apply those monies to a fund designated to offset the cost to the homeowners for this massive project.
Additionally, we have been notified that we must immediately, at our own expense and hardship, in the worst economy in generations, where scores of us are out of work and struggling to make ends meet for our families, that we must pay tens of thousands of dollars more to the Borough that has been deceiving us, to connect service to the sewer system we've already been paying for all of these years.
To add insult to injury, the homeowners of Tamaqua are also being strong armed and threatened that unless we not only forfeit the thousands of dollars the borough has fraudulently collected for sewer service that they have never provided, but the borough also threatens to levy fines, turn off water service and evict families and tenants, unless we bow our heads and quietly and quickly comply with their demands.
Even the low interest loan programs the borough is shamelessly teasing are unavailable to most, (if not all) of the affected Homeowners. Similarly, trying to hire a lawyer in hopes of defending the people of this city from this injustice is financially out of reach for most of us.
After countless information searches and phone calls to other residents, local contractors, local government agencies, borough utilities, council members and their representatives, and council meetings, we have been desperately looking for answers as to how this could have happened, how what is being demanded of the property owners is even legal, and most importantly, how the borough intends to move forward and work with homeowners to resolve this issue. All we seem to get equates to nothing more than dismissive shrugs or a blank stare.
As responsible, ethical individuals and property owners, we will continue to obtain project analysis', quotes, and seek options, but understand that we will continue to expect reasonable cooperation, transparency and most of all, respect from the our local and the state government offices and representatives involved.
As an owner, my first priority is to protect and ensure that residents are not being threatened with disconnection of services or eviction, and have a safe and sanitary home. My second priority is to connect our property to the city sewer system simply because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the decades of negligence of the borough. That said however, we will continue to seek a reasonable resolution to the financial discrepancies between the money we paid for services never rendered by the borough, and the financial burden inflicted by the project to the homeowners.
It is justifiable and reasonable for the homeowners to request and expect that the monies billed and collected by the borough for sewer service never rendered be immediately refunded to the homeowners so that we can use those funds we've already paid to subsidize our cost of connecting, and accomplish full compliance with your demands.