Whitehall Township votes against weighing in on Allentown sewer and water lease proposal
The Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners turned down the opportunity to weigh in on a controversial subject during Monday night’s meeting.
A resolution that urged Allentown City Council to not take further action on Mayor Pawlowski’s proposal to lease the city’s water and sewer operation pending the result of a ballot question, failed by a 4-3 vote.
“I fully support our Sewer and Water Authority, but I’m not really in favor of urging the city council not to take any action,” said Commissioner Dennis Hower. “And the reason is I don’t want another municipality telling us what to do. I just think at the end of the day it really has no bearing on what they do.”
“Why are we sending this in the first place?” added Commissioner Paul Geissinger.
Previously the township’s Sewer Authority had supported the idea that the proposal would go to voters in Allentown, according to Commissioner Phillip Ginder.
“This is huge, this is going to affect every household and every business in the township of Whitehall, without question,” he said. “Because they all use sewage and they all use water.”
"This is how we, as your next door neighbor feel about this,” Ginder said as explaining his rationale for voting for the measure. “We’re not saying ‘Jeez, you really got to vote on this or we hate you’ we’re saying ‘here is how we feel about this.’”
“I’m actually not telling Allentown what to do, I’m just feeling like I’m expressing my feelings,” said President Linda Snyder. “…I realize the City of Allentown is facing financial difficulty due to their pension obligations, however the rate payers of the surrounding communities should not be held hostage for their debt. I said it over and over and over, why should the poor people in Whitehall Township be left holding the bag for Allentown.”
Voting against the measure were Commissioners Gerald Palagonia, Thomas Slonaker, Hower and Geissinger.
Last month Allentown City Council voted 6-1 to reject a proposed bill that would have allowed voters to determine if any city-owned assets worth more than $10 million should be sold, leased or transferred. Had council voted for the measure, the $10 million question would have gone on the ballot in Allentown’s primary election in May and voters would have decided the $10-million question.
In other business Monday night, commissioners voted 5-2 to grant relief from the zoning requirement of installing missing sidewalks along the north side of Pennsylvania Street from Virginia Avenue to Fifth Street, but only after a passionate dissent was registered by Geisenger, who questioned why the board was receiving a recommendation from Township Surveyor Carl Lagler to piecemeal when the ordinance governing the zoning is predicated upon the street.
“I don’t think we’re supposed to make a decision base piecemeal, we’re supposed to make a decision based on the street entirely,” he said.
“It’s not out of the norm where we have streets that are out of the norm,” Laggler said.
This further invigorated Geisenger’s annoyance at the issue, noting that the recommendation bears a lot of weight, should the issue become a legal issue.
“I’m not going to have a paid township employee tell me how to vote,” he said.
After debating the issue for nearly 30 minutes, Slonaker and Ginder noted that they appreciated Lagler’s recommendations and eventually voted in favor the waiver. Voting no were Geissinger and Snyder.
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