The water dispute in the city of Reading is finally coming to an end.
Reading Area Water Authority (RAWA) board members and Reading City Council members gathered in Council Chambers at City Hall Monday, for a press conference to announce a preliminary five-year agreement for the water lease.
The preliminary agreement states that RAWA will continue to run the water system, and City Council will have more oversight of one of its most valuable assets.
“City Council always had two major goals in sight, to protect the water asset and to obtain additional oversight over the asset,” said Francis Acosta, City Council president.
The agreement states that RAWA would pay the city $8 million a year in lease payments. Acosta, Council president and Ernie Schlegel, RAWA board chairman, said the $8 million is not subject to an increase during those five years.
Most of the terms of the preliminary agreement dealt with furthering communication between the two City Council and the Board.
A few highlights include an agreement that Council will review RAWA’s annual budget, but will not have approval power. Such was the case in the past up until five or six years ago.
Council will also receive financial statements from RAWA every quarter, something that has never been done, but Council believes will help keep them informed.
Another new term states that RAWA will need approval from Council on any contract valued at $2 million or more.
Other new procedures include a limit on maximum tenure of RAWA’s solicitor and an annual water system plan that will be reviewed by both parties. Also, an two more members appointed by the City Council will be added to RAWA’s now 5-person board.
The press conference was also used to clear the air about previous misconceptions.
Acosta, council president, detailed the course that the process took since early in the year and explained where differences arose.
Councilman, Jeffery Waltman, spoke briefly to clarify that throughout the process RAWA employees were never at risk to lose their jobs and that Council never planned on acting rapidly or entertaining a request for proposal (RFP).
The ordinance was introduced later in the evening at the Council meeting and will be voted on by Council at the Aug.11 meeting.