Inside Your Town

Reading Council discussion turns again to water lease issue

READING, Pa. - Once again, the water lease situation was the topic of a majority of discussion held at the Reading City Council meeting Monday night.

Before continuing debate on how the water lease situation should be handled between the Council and the City's administration, the Council passed two ordinances.

A bill amending the Purchasing Policies in the Administrative Code, which was reviewed by the Finance Committee on April 21 and introduced at the April 28 meeting, was passed with a super majority of 6-1.

Council unanimously voted to add a rental fee for Egelman's Park because after renovations it is considered a valuable asset to Reading.

Reappointments of Joseph Amprey, Board of Ethics, and Cynthia LaSota, Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) were approved unanimously and council praised their service in their positions thus far.

The appointment of Nick Wooten as Fire Chief by Mayor Vaughn Spencer was tabled as Council's vote was 4-3.

Following the vote, what began as answering questions from the public on the water lease situation quickly turned into an argument between Council and the administration on how the process was being handled.

Mayor Spencer said he wants Reading Area Water Authority (RAWA) to be included in discussion during all meetings held regarding the water lease.

Council currently has three pending bills awaiting further legal review: dissolving RAWA, creating Reading Regional Water Authority, and notifying RAWA about the termination of the lease.

Though the water lease is a hot topic and a priority for planning the budget for 2014-15, it is not a matter that Council is rushing.

"Because it [the water lease] is so important, I believe we should take our time and make a decision." said Council President Francis Acosta.

Keeping options open is a primary goal of doing a request for proposal, and RAWA remains one of those options despite not being involved in discussions.

"We wanted RAWA to be part of this process. We still don't have a true evaluation of what the system is worth… I think it's very prudent of council to see what the best offer is. The preliminary offer from RAWA may be the best offer, but right now we don't know what else is out there." said Councilman Dennis Sterner.

While Mayor Spencer said earlier in the meeting that a second town hall meeting regarding RAWA is being planned, Acosta took immediate action during the discussion on getting the administration, Council, and public in the same room to clear up the communication process.

Acosta scheduled a meeting between the two sides for May 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. He noted the meeting is open to the public, and the only aspect that would be closed to the public would be any legal discussion.

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