The Reading City Council voted 5 to 1 Monday night to override Mayor Vaughn Spencer’s veto of council's decision to dissolve the Reading Area Water Authority.
Last month the council approved an ordinance to terminate the water lease, dissolve RAWA and require the resignation of board members by a 5-2 vote.
Mayor Spencer indicated that he was unsure whether he would veto the decision at the time of the vote, although Council President Francis Acosta and the other board members anticipated it.
The mayor vetoed the ordinance on Friday, June 6.
The council voted quickly to override the mayor’s veto.
Councilwoman Donna Reed made the motion and Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz seconded.
The vote was taken without any further comments from board members.
Mayor Spencer was not in attendance.
City Council and the mayor’s office have been at odds over the decision to dissolve the current water authority since the council proposed the ordinance in March.
At the time of the vote to dissolve, the council expressed concerns that the board of the city’s most valuable asset was becoming increasingly private with the administration of a public asset.
Spencer admitted that he does not understand that argument as the City Council appointed the members of the RAWA board.
Spencer has expressed a desire to work directly with RAWA to make necessary changes in the administration of the city’s water supply.
The authority has leased the water system for over 20 years and he believes it would be faster and less expensive to improve the existing authority and to allow RAWA to obtain a valuation of the system rather than to dissolve it and start over.
Council disagrees, and believes the only way to get a fair value for the system is to issue a request for new lease proposals. It has invited RAWA to submit a bid.
The override of the veto will likely be the beginning of a several-months long process to shift control of the water system back to the city, and eventually to a new lessee, but so far that process has not even begun.
Councilman Jeffrey Waltman said, “City Council isn’t doing any RFPs, there is nothing on the table, no lease, no privatization. All we’re doing is protecting the asset.”
President Acosta agreed, and remained hopeful that a solution to this ongoing problem will be found soon.