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Lawsuit: Johnstown Redevelopment Authority can't operate sewer system

The Dorick Point Sewage Treatment Plant in West Taylor Township is a focal point of a lawsuit filed against the Johnstown Development Authority and Westmont Borough. (WJAC)

JOHNSTOWN -- In a lawsuit filed with the Court of Common Pleas in Cambria County, Westmont resident Willeam Choby alleged that the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority isn't allowed to operate the sewer system, something they currently do for 20 different municipalities in the Greater Johnstown area.

The lawsuit also names Westmont Borough as requiring property owners to do expensive testing and retrofitting on their sewer lines when they move out, something the lawsuit says people in nearby boroughs and townships are not required to do.

The main argument made in the lawsuit is that the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority isn't authorized to deal at all with the sewer system.

Choby's lawyer told 6 News that the Authority is only authorized, under Pennsylvania law, to deal in matters related to redevelopment of the city.

The lawyer, Michael Korns of Avolio Law Group in Greensburg, also said Choby hopes that if a judge agrees with his argument, the Authority will have to stop operating the sewer system, giving municipalities a chance to figure out new ways to comply with state sewer upgrade requirements.

While Choby and Korns argue the Authority wasn't intended and isn't allowed to operate the sewer lines, the Authority is arguing that it specifically asked the State of Pennsylvania for permission to operate the system.

That approval, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, came in 2004, when the commission approved the transfer of the sewer system from the city to the Redevelopment Authority.

The Authority also said in a statement Wednesday that it has all the proper legal permissions to operate the sewer system and called the lawsuit "without merit."

The solicitor for Westmont Borough, who would handle the Borough's participation in a lawsuit, didn't respond to a request for comment, and there wasn't an answer when a 6 News reporter knocked on the door at an address listed in the lawsuit for Choby.

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