“I’m convinced the right move for us is to approve this resolution and move forward,” said board member Thomas Muller. Board member Brian Nagle agreed moving forward “is in the best interest of LCA’s customers.”
Board member Scott Bieber said he still wasn’t sure how he would vote going into Tuesday’s 2 p.m. board meeting, but concluded:. “After consideration of all the pros and cons, I feel it’s important that the LCA make an attempt to get this concession because I think we can run a better water and sewer system operation than a privateer. It’s very important we try to keep this operation out of the hands of privateers. A lot of harm could result from that in the future.”
Scheller of the county commissioners told the board she is disappointed “if LCA is complicit in this.” She said it’s infuriating that the value of the water and sewer system is not based on what it actually is worth but on how much money Allentown needs to raise. “I know there were discussions a few years ago that were one fourth the amount of money to buy the system.”
Joe Hilliard of Allentown said it is disturbing that no one has oversight over LCA, including the county commissioners. He said residents also “have been remiss for not providing the proper oversight.” He disagreed that LCA is well run and financially well managed, claiming it is heavily burdened by debt.
“Moving forward with this scheme is going to open the door to a lot more push-back,” warned Hilliard. “We’re already talking about forming a citizens group to provide a lot more oversight of the very detailed operations of the LCA. “ He also said he will appeal to the Legislature to amend the state’s authority law, so LCA’s board could be removed “at will.”
Hilliard told the board: “Do what you need to do; we’ll do what we need to do.”
Jan Keim of Salisbury asked the board how it can possibly spend money to expand services when LCA has not corrected the problem of raw sewage going into Allentown’s water supply –Little Lehigh Creek -- for more than 40 years.
Arndt said his staff spent nearly 3,000 hours working on the bid, including evaluating every aspect of the proposed lease, since last summer.
An LCA news release cites several reasons why it is bidding on the Allentown water/sewer systems:
• LCA is a non-profit, tax exempt municipal authority that claims some of the lowest water rates in Pennsylvania and maintains its non-profit structure ensures it has no incentive to generate excess lease revenues.
• It promises the lowest cost of service to customers.
• LCA already is interconnected with the city’s water and sewer systems and depends on those facilities for service.
• It claims a proven track record of excellent service and national leadership on water and waste water issues.
• It pays lower borrowing costs for upfront expenses and ongoing capital improvements.