Michael Zabrzeski

Michael Zabrzeski stands by a monument to the Sisters of Mercy with his home, the former convent, in the background on Aug. 30, 2021. Zabrzeski has been ordered to pay for a new sewer line across the St. Michael Basilica property and had the water shut off at his Loretto home. 

LORETTO, Pa. – Water is flowing again at Loretto Borough Councilman Michael Zabrzeski’s St. Ann Street residence after work on a new sewer line was completed Monday.

“It was pressure-tested this morning, and we now have water,” Zabrzeski said Tuesday.

Borough employees shut off water service to Michael and Karen Zabrzeski’s home on Friday at the order of his brother-in-law, Loretto Mayor David Eckenrode. Officials demanded the Zabrzeskis provide more than $4,000 placed in escrow to ensure the work was completed.

At Monday’s borough council meeting, Solicitor Nicholas Bentivegna said the shut-off was a last resort after the family missed a second deadline for the state-mandated project.

Zabrzeski said the line replacement cost should have been paid by the borough because the line serves two homes, making it a sewer main, not a lateral.

Zabrzeski and his neighbor replaced the lines from their homes to St. Ann Street, taking the laterals under the street to the junction point. From there, the single line extends across St. Michael Basilica’s property to the borough main on St. Mary Street.

His home is the former Sisters of Mercy convent, and his neighbor lives in what was a caretaker’s house for the church complex. The lines were installed by the church when public sewage came to Loretto.

The borough’s position is that it has always been a private line and there is no reason for the borough to take it over.

“That’s complete nonsense that it is a sewer main,” Bentivegna said. “It is inappropriate for us to use borough funds to replace somebody’s private line.”

Sometimes when a homeowner knows the work can’t be done by the deadline, council gives an extension – provided there is an assurance the job will be completed. That may be placing funds in escrow or providing the borough with a copy of a contract for the work – including a completion date, Bentivegna said.

Although Zabrzeski sent the borough a copy of his contract last week, there was no completion date for the work. He said the mayor and council were aware the work would not begin until after Labor Day because the line crosses near where the church holds outdoor Masses in the summer.

Council President Ward Prostejovsky said the escrow requirement was one remedy available.

“We gave them extensions past the deadline,” Prostejovsky said. “We stood on our heads for this.”

Technically, the borough could require separate laterals for the two homes all the way to St. Mary Street, council Vice President Zach Farabaugh said.

“We agreed it could be run in the same way it was originally installed,” he said.

“By doing it this way (as one line), we cut his cost in half,” Bentivegna said.

Zabrzeski said he still intends to have the sewer main question decided in court.

There are more than 100 homes on the borough sewer system, and all have been ordered to replace sewer laterals as part of the state’s push to reduce sanitary sewer overflows into waterways.

“Others have not squawked at all,” Bentivegna said.

It’s not the same, Zabrzeski counters.

“Everybody in town hooked up on the street at their homes,” he said. “Nobody in town had to go to a second street.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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