The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

July 23, 2013

Scenic upgrades finished; legal wrangling continues

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP — Upgrades to the water and sanitary sewer systems at Scenic Mobile Home Park in Pymatuning Township have been completed and civil penalties are the only thing left to settle under a lawsuit filed by the state.

However, there are related issues that have the previous park owner and state officials sparring in and out of court.

The state Department of Environmental Protection sued Scenic Mobile Home Park Inc., Woodstock, Va., in September 2011 alleging the owner had not lived up to its obligations under a consent order it signed 11 months earlier concerning its water and sanitary sewer-treatment facilities.

The company improved facilities and met technical regulations but the work was not completed within deadlines set in the order.

Scenic last year asked for an extension in which to complete the project, arguing its contractor did not want to work during inclement weather, but Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge John C. Reed denied the request, concluding the winter weather had been good enough for construction.

DEP in February filed a new petition with the court to enforce the order, alleging some work had not been completed.

A hearing set in March was continued at DEP’s request until Monday.

Matthew L. Wolford of Erie, attorney for Scenic, said the only issue remaining to be resolved under the petition is the civil penalty that will be levied against Scenic. DEP is seeking $3,225.

However, there are other issues not subject to the order that Wolford said he hopes to wrap up at the same time.

Among them are that the park has been sold to Scenic Mobile Home Park LLC, a Pennsylvania corporation, but DEP refuses to transfer the permits for the water and sewage systems to the new owner, Wolford said.

DEP also is imposing more than $11,000 in penalties against the previous owner for alleged violations of the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, Wolford said.

Further complicating matters, DEP filed the latest petition as a separate action instead of under the previous petition’s case number, meaning there are two judges assigned to handle the matters.

Judge Christopher J. St. John on Monday asked why either the newer petition should not be dismissed and refiled under the old case number, or the cases be consolidated.

DEP’s Northwest Regional Counsel Nicole M. Rodrigues said she considered the newer petition to be a separate action because Reed had modified the original consent order. But she begrudgingly agreed to allow them to be consolidated, if St. John wanted things handled that way.

St. John did, and ordered the cases consolidated under the original case number, putting the ball back in Reed’s court.

A new hearing will be set in September, St. John said.

Rodrigues said Jerry Lambert, principal in Scenic Mobile Home Park Inc., had had several months to hire an attorney and prepare for Monday’s hearing, but only hired Wolford on Friday. She said she had her witness ready to testify.

“The department has an interest in getting this matter resolved as quickly as possible,” she said.

Wolford said he hopes the sides can settle all of the issues before the hearing. Lambert wants to be out from under Scenic Mobile Home Park and move on to other things, Wolford said.

“When is done done?” Wolford said, “That’s what this is all about.”

Wolford deflected St. John’s suggestion that he and Rodrigues sit in the jury room and try to resolve their difference, saying he did not know where Lambert is and would not be able to reach him.