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HAZLETON, PA Thursday, 14 December 2006
 
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Dredge pact may have left taxpayers in the dark Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 December 2006
Editor,
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the use of dredge materials from harbors and rivers.
A recent article in the Standard-Speaker said that the material might begin to arrive before the end of this year. The same article said that the Pennsylvnia Department of Environmental Protection authorized the use of dredged material from harbors and rivers.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board is not going to hear testimony in the appeal by SUFFER until April 2007 after much dredge material might already have been brought into the area.
According to the newspaper, the hearing board conducted a review of the site for all parties in the case and on Sept. 28 denied a motion that Hazleton Creek made for partial summary judgment in its favor.
While the case is still open, it is questionable that the contractor should be able to bring in the material questioned in the case before a decision has been made by the state.
It has been reported that millions of dollars were to be paid to the city by the contractor for the importing of the dredge material.
It was not said if there were any restrictions on what was paid to the city. A legal opinion should be requested if the city could be liable if there were any cases brought against it because of damages from the use of the material.
The question that this arrangement raises is why the city should be responsible for damages which it did not cause and not the company or individuals responsible for the importing and use of the material.
If this is not covered in the agreement, it would seem to indicate that the contractor may be trying to avoid accepting responsibility for its actions and trying to throw the responsibility to the residents of this city who were not even given a chance to vote on their agreement for the use of the material.
If this arrangement is correct, there are two groups which might be liable for any problems which could be created and which should therefore be involved in determining any possible liability.
The first group who should examine the whole situation and possible liability is the city council.
It could be very embarrassing for it if something happened and the city was involved as defendant in a lawsuit involving substantial money because the members of the city council did not take the responsibility for protecting the city before the problem arose.
The other group that should examine the possibility of any liability is the local taxpayers because they were not told all of the facts before the project was approved.
There is no reason why all of the provisions of the agreement between the contractors and the city should not be presented to the taxpayers and then give them a chance to give their approval after all of the conditions were presented to them and give them the opportunity to present their approval or orbjections to city council.
If the people wanting to push their project were not aware of the fact that there might be a possibility of possible damage which could cause lawsuits, they would not think about withholding the money that they said they would be paid to the city instead of even wanting to put the money in escrow so that any damages would be paid by the city instead of them.
Instead of keeping the provisions secret, they should bring them out into the open and let city council approve the agreement after the taxpayers had the opportunity to approve the agreement in an election in which the provisions were fully explained.

Bernard H. Kline,
CPA,
Hazleton
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Copyright Standard~Speaker Newspapers 2006