The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 25, 2014

Lower Mahanoy files lien against Line Mt. to recoup $143G

By Justin Strawser
The Daily Item

— DALMATIA — A municipal lien was placed on the former Dalmatia Elementary School this week by the Lower Mahanoy Township Municipal Authority for the Line Mountain School District’s failure to pay a $143,454 bill, including interest, within 30 days.

The bill, which the authority gave the district until June 22 to pay, relates to the cleanup costs of 1,250 gallons of heating oil that leaked from the former school into the authority’s wastewater treatment plant in February.

A lien is defined as the legal claim of one person on the property of another to secure the payment of a debt or the satisfaction of an obligation.

The action puts an indefinite hold on the sale of the property to Jeremy Strohecker, 32, of Klingerstown, who had until Friday to sign the final paperwork.

“I’m pretty angry with it,” Strohecker said Wednesday. “I’ve held up my end of the deal. They’re holding up the whole process and what I want to do. They need to be held accountable.”

Strohecker, who was planning on either developing the building into a multi-purpose community-business center or making a profit by selling it, is threatening his own legal action against the district for delaying his plans.

He was set to sign the final paperwork at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but he and his lawyer were informed the district had to cancel for the third time, this time due to the lien.

District solicitor Rich Roberts said the litigation was discussed in executive session Tuesday night, and it will be discussed publicly “in due course.”

The claim has been submitted to the district’s insurance provider, Liberty Mutual, to determine whether the cost is covered, he said.

The deadline for the Strohecker sale likely will be extended, he said.

Strohecker said the lien doesn’t punish the school district, only him as the new owner.

He wants the authority to lift the lien and allow him to develop the property and have the authority pursue getting its money by other means.

The heating oil leaked into the authority’s wastewater treatment plant after a pressure gauge broke Feb. 10, prompting a response from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The invoice includes a $127,877 line item from Northridge Group Inc., of Northumberland, which was hired to clean up the leak.

At the time of the leak, the district was paying $62,598 for insurance coverage, which includes property, crime, inland marine, general liability, professional liability, automobile, umbrella and accident.

The sewer plant, at 132 River Road, is about a half-mile from Dalmatia. It serves 234 customers and processes approximately 30,000 gallons of sewage a day.

The Dalmatia building was not in use by the district for educational purposes when the leak occurred. That school and the Leck Kill Elementary School were closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year as part of a consolidation plan.

In March, the school board put McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, of Harrisburg, on retainer for representation should the heating oil issue go to litigation.

The four-page document for the lien was filed Monday in the Northumberland County Courthouse by the authority’s attorney, William Swinehart, of Wiest, Muelo, Noon, Swinehart & BathGate, Sunbury.