She said when a majority of commissioners voted against extending LCA’s charter several weeks ago, LCA told commissioners it would not bid on the water/sewer lease, but bid on it anyway. She also said LCA showed her a number that was the most LCA would bid to win the lease, but LCA’s first bid was higher than the number she was shown.
Scheller said she is attempting to develop a county ordinance to dissolve LCA, but was told by the county legal staff that it is very complex legislation and she doubts it will be ready before “the ink is dry on the Allentown/LCA deal.” She said she wishes she had pushed for a motion to dissolve LCA months ago.
Council members speak
“This has been the most gut-wrenching decision I probably will ever have to make,” said O’Connell before voting. “This process has pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, business person against business person, even colleague against colleague. The anti-privatization people are not our enemy. Far from it. They are people concerned for the city of Allentown.”
But O’Connell said if nothing is done now, Allentown will be bankrupt in a few years. “I truly believe in my heart that the solvency of the city depends on this agreement.”
Guridy said the process of approving the lease was very painful for himself, his family and his colleagues. He stressed that he respects those who led the opposition, including Dan Poresky, Bill Hoffman, Michael Donovan and Rich Fegley.
He praised the fact that Americans can agree to disagree without being shot or told to shut up.
Because of her health problems, Mota has missed recent long council meetings that focused on the lease. She was hospitalized several weeks ago while visiting relatives.
Talking on a speaker phone, she said she cannot even walk.
City Council candidate Kim Velez tried to block Mota from voting, saying she not been part of “this open discussion” and has not made a single comment indicating her position about the lease in the past year.
But Mota said “of course” she was ready to vote.
“We have to do what’s best for the city,” said Mota. “We don’t want the city to go bankrupt. “
She added: “I do not have a hidden agenda like a few people are saying. I just want what’s best for the city.”
Council member Jeff Glazier said if council did not approve the lease, in a year or two it could be debating a 35 percent tax increase to keep up with its growing pension debt.
“This room would be filled four times over with people who are just as passionate and arguing just as vociferously against raising taxes as folks here this evening are arguing against the water rates,” he said. “I’m going to vote for this. In the long run, it’s the right thing to do for Allentown.”
“I’m in favor of the lease compared to other options and I will be voting yes for it,” said council member Joe Davis. He said council did consider different combinations of alternative options.
“There is nothing I can think of that we haven’t discussed.”
Council member Peter Schweyer said initially he was skeptical about a lease, but indicated it will meet his requirements to get the city out of its financial crisis, protect the workforce, ensure water quality and service, and “provide some level of predictability for ratepayers.”
With the city’s multi-million-dollar pension debt crisis averted with the lease, Schweyer expressed hope the city can do more to improve the lives of its residents.
Several residents accused both council and the administration of lacking transparency in developing the lease. But Davis said he tried to answer every question people asked him, adding: “You might not have liked my answer.”
And, in response to council making backroom deals, Glazier said: “I’ve not found that backroom yet. I don’t think it exists.”