Such fees are charged to anyone cutting into a township road that recently was repaved. “It’s kind of a disincentive to tearing a brand new road open,” explained Township Engineer Frank Clark, who added that is not what happened on Mickley Road.

Township administrators argued the sinkhole, which opened in Mickley Road on Jan. 27, created an emergency situation.

But township commissioners want to negotiate a money-saving deal with MBMA, which apparently will be initiated by a motion at Monday night’s township meeting.
A broken six-inch water main owned by NBMA was found when the sinkhole opened. Hozza said NBMA immediately repaired the line and filled the sinkhole. He said NBMA also will pay $15,000 to repair the road.

Township officials said it has not been determined if the water main break caused the sinkhole or the sinkhole caused the water main break.

Hozza said that section of Mickley Road was last repaved two or three years ago.

A break on fire hydrant fees?

Commissioner Ginder suggested Whitehall negotiate “a half-and-half on this degradation fee to try to cover some of the cost of the fire hydrants we’re paying full price for from NBMA.”

The township pays NBMA $56,000 a year for fire hydrant maintenance.

When asked what is involved in maintaining fire hydrants, Hozza offered an example. He said a car hit a hydrant on Schadt Avenue Saturday night and took off.

It snapped the hydrant. NBMA repaired the damage, with no additional charge to Whitehall.

He also said NBMA installed a new water line along MacArthur Road from Center Street to Lehigh Street, with a new fire hydrant at Municipal Drive, at no additional charge beyond the hydrant maintenance fee.

NBMA provides most of the public water service in Whitehall and has most of the fire hydrants, said Hozza.

“Is it possible to try to negotiate some of this?” asked Ginder. “If we’re willing to waive this degradation fee, then maybe we should ask them if they’d be willing to help us out with the cost of these fire hydrants.”

“I believe their answer will be that they haven’t raised that fee in several years,” said Hozza.

Responded Ginder: “They’re asking us to do something for them and I feel it’s only fair that we should ask them to do a little something for us. Give us a little break here.”

Ginder and other commissioners said the township does not pay Coplay-Whitehall Sewer Authority any fire hydrant maintenance fee.

“If you delay for negotiations, that will delay the repaving of the street,” warned Hozza, who later added: “We’re running out of time here. Nov. 15 normally is the date all paving operations cease” because of cold weather. “And I want them out of there before the start of the shopping season on Oct. 31.” That section of Mickley Road is just north of Whitehall Mall.

The mayor indicated NBMA has helped the township end water leaks in Cementon, Hokendauqua and Fullerton that were costing Whitehall hundreds of dollars. He said NBMA waived those meter bills. ”They didn’t have to do that.”

Hozza also said NBMA has not raised its water rates for several years.

Sinkhole lawsuit and insurance

The Mickley Road sinkhole has severely damaged a home at 1242 Mickley Road, said Hozza, who added the home is directly over the hole.

Deputy Mayor Jack Meyers said the township faces legal fees in a lawsuit filed because of that sinkhole, even though the township had nothing to do with causing it.

The owners of the home damaged by the sinkhole have sued NBMA, Coplay-Whitehall Sewer Authority and Whitehall, said Hozza. He declined to comment on the merits of that on-going suit or to identify the homeowners.

According to county assessment records, 1242 Mickley Road is owned by Barbara Baker and Sonia Luciano.

Meyers said the owners “walked away” from the home but still own it.