RAWA seeks RFP to gauge potential lease values

READING, Pa. - The Reading Area Water Authority (RAWA) board has been working over the past 30 days on a draft and tentative schedule for a request for proposal (RFP) to offer a comprehensive evaluation of the company.

RAWA has also been looking at prospective firms for the job and there are currently 6 companies up for consideration.

The board believes all six companies are capable of doing the job but sees three of the candidates as "stellar" options.

There will be a pre-bid tour that is expected to last two days so every building and tank can be viewed.

Candidates will also have access to documents but will not be able to take any with them outside of the building.

The proposed tentative schedule that was first presented suggested the process end by Oct. 31, but Ernie Schlegel, board member, and others were still interested in the possibility of a Sept. 30 deadline so the information could be presented to Reading City Council by the mayor so updates could be included in the budget.

On the other hand, the board believes that having the process done fully and correctly is crucial to getting an accurate idea of value.

According to Dean Miller, executive director, a component was included in the draft for the selected firm to evaluate the impact on rates in the event that there would be a substantial down-payment to the city for the water lease.

While such an evaluation would be interesting, members expressed caution about utilizing the information, as it would just be an estimate of what could obtain in certain circumstances but which could be different from reality

Two numbers RAWA is interested in are numbers for the potential values for an annual lease payment and numbers for an up-front lease for 30 years.

Schlegel said that he wanted to emphasize the fact that on June 10, 2014 the board voted to not to be involved in a long-term lease with anyone.

He reminded the board that City Council said it "has not and will not consider the sale or privatization of the system" but that Council has not provided an explicit definition of what is considered privatization.

Michael Setley, Solicitor, suggested they obtain an annual fair rental value and that they stick with a simple, yet organized process.

Albright College Center for Excellence in Local Government is taking care of the bid process and the center will be responsible for checking up on the work.

Once the process starts, RAWA's main function will just be to pay the bills.

Schlegel also addressed comments about RAWA's charges for replacing stolen meters.

He said that almost any utility, such as cable boxes, phones, computers and electricity meters, that is stolen will be paid for to be replaced,.

"The fact remains there is no bullying of people going on… We are working very hard on reforming customer service," said Schlegel.

The board went into an executive session to discuss a pending law suit about recycling fees in order to determine what action to take in future.

For now, RAWA will continue to bill and collect as they currently do and the money will be put into an escrow fund until the litigation is decided.

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