LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. – The Lower Saucon Township Council agreed Wednesday to oppose a bill introduced in the Pennsylvania State Senate that would require municipal water and wastewater asset management plans throughout the commonwealth.
Introduced by state Sen. Patrick Stefano (R-32) last month, Senate Bill 597 is reportedly intended to assist smaller and poorer-performing municipal water authorities by requiring water and wastewater management plans from such bodies.
However, Lower Saucon Water Authority Administrator Bill Ross told council he believes the bill was placed on the "fast track" in Harrisburg in order to encourage local water authorities to sell their assets to much larger private companies. He said that could lead to what he believes would be notable rate increases for customers.
Ross said the proposed water asset plans also raise the risk of creating conflicts between the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection. Under the bill, the utility commission would be responsible for enforcing the regulations among municipalities and small private entities.
Ross added those conflicts over the water management plans will trickle down to increased challenges for local water authorities. He also cited increased vulnerability to possible terror attacks with public identification of water sources.
He concluded his comments on the matter stating, "Lower Saucon delivers a quality water product at a very fair price."
Council agreed with Ross and decided to write a letter to all local representatives making a case to defeat the bill. Council and Ross both recognized the letter and any added support to defeat the bill should be immediate because they said proponents of the privatizations are relying on the legislation being passed with little to no discussion, scrutiny or debate.
In other business, council heard a review presentation from Natasha Manbeck of McMahon Associate Inc., a transportation engineering firm from Fort Washington that began working last February on a township-wide "active transportation plan," or ATP.
Manbeck said the ATP will identify key connections, potential capital improvements and policies to support walking and biking in the township. The project is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health WalkWorks grant program.