WILKES-BARRE -- If you live near Wilkes-Barre, you may soon have to pay a fee for the sewer authority it's creating.
Wilkes-Barre City Council voted on Monday to move ahead with a plan that would impose sewer fees on communities that utilize Wilkes-Barre's sewer lines.
The plan calls for Wilkes-Barre to set up its own sewer authority. That authority would collect fees from neighboring municipalities that send wastewater through pipes owned by the city.
Council fired question after question at representatives from Cardno BCM, a wastewater engineering firm. Council ultimately voted to hire the firm to help Wilkes-Barre create a sewer authority.
"Each year we have an aging infrastructure that has expanded on its wear and tear," said Mayor Tom Leighton.
It's wear and tear that city officials say largely comes from wastewater generated in neighboring communities, including Wilkes-Barre Township and Plains Township. While residents in those communities already pay a sewer fee to the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority, that fee is for the treatment of wastewater.
Wilkes-Barre wants to collect a "pass through fee" to help maintain its pipes.
"All the lines go through one main line right now, and that main line has to be maintained," said city council member George Brown.
"Seems reasonable because, of course, they should pay the same fee we pay," said Wilkes-Barre resident Lagos Pifko.
Wilkes-Barre officials say they'll now have to negotiate the fee amount with neighboring municipalities, but some people who live in those communities fear the sewer authority could mean higher taxes.
"They shouldn't do it," said Wilkes-Barre Township resident Joseph Kostka. "We already pay Wilkes-Barre Township taxes and Luzerne County taxes. What the heck do we gotta pay more for?"
"The sewer lines have to go all the way to the sewer treatment plant, so somebody should be helping us pay the cost," said Kathy Burke of Wilkes-Barre.
Now that Wilkes-Barre has hired a consulting firm to help it create a sewer authority, the next step is for that firm to make a five-year plan of what the authority plans to do. There is no word when that plan might be ready.