Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sewer Rate Hike Will Not Include Upper Pottsgrove

Image from Screenshot
Bernie Grundusky, senior director for business development for Pennsylvania American Water, outlined in yellow, informs last night's township meeting that the company's rate hike request will not include Upper Pottsgrove.

The rate hike that Pennsylvania American Water is seeking from the Public Utility Commission will not apply to Upper Pottsgrove sewer customers, a company official said Monday night.

Late last month, the commissioners voted 4-1 to sell the sewer collection system to Pennsylvania American Water for $13.7 million.

Bernie Grundusky, senior director for business development for Pennsylvania American Water, made the announcement that the rate hike won't apply to Upper Pottsgrove during an online commissioners meeting at the invitation of Chairman Trace Slinkerd.

Grundusky said because Pennsylvania American is a publicly traded company, it would have been against the rules to mention that the company was filing for a rate increase prior to the official announcement.

Further, he said any rate increase granted by the PUC will only apply to those who were customers when the company applied. And because it may be a year before the PUC approves the sale of the township's sewer system "you're not our customers yet."

Upper Pottsgrove's rate "is in no way impacted by this request. Upper Pottsgrove is not a part of" the rate hike request Grundusky said. 

Township rates will still drop by 9 percent in 2021 when compared to projected rates had the township still owned the system. That's what was presented during the four public information meetings  conducted online using the Zoom cyber-meeting platform prior to the sale.

Several of the commissioners complained about reaction on some Facebook pages when news of the rate hike request broke.

"I knew it didn't include us," said Commissioner Renee Spaide.

"I know it stirred up a lot of feeling," said Commissioner Cathy Paretti. "I didn't know about it until I read about it in the paper Friday. I called Trace and he had already looked into it and confirmed it did not include us."

"I'd like to offer some advice," Paretti continued. "You can't rely on Facebook for getting your news. If you want to be informed, you have to come to the meetings, if you have questions email one of us or the township manager."

Spaide said she felt the negative comments on Facebook were "just a handful of people," adding that she was threatened on one of the posts.

"I love this community and would never do anything to hurt this community," said Spaide before asking Commissioner Martin Schreiber, who operates his own Upper Pottsgrove Facebook page and who voted against selling the system, to outline his reasons for opposing the sale.

"I don't think it was the right time," Schreiber replied. Noting that a 143-unit over-50 housing project is currently in the works and will be hooked into the sewer system. "So maybe we could have gotten more for the system later on."

Slinkerd suggested to Schreiber that if he is going to run a Facebook page "it's incumbent on a public official to police it, particularly when profanity is used."

Resident Al Leach, who is also vice president of the Pottsgrove School Board and was among those commenting on Facebook pages, said "I completely agree about using Facebook to get your news, but we can't make a meeting, sometimes its the only news we can get."

He suggested that the township's website is "difficult to navigate" and suggested the commissioners making it "more user friendly."

Slinkerd asked Leach about the school district's website and Leach replied that the school board had recently undertaken an effort to upgrade it, as well as allow advertising there to cover the cost. He also said the school district has plans to update the "mobile site," so it is easier to read on your smart phone.

Two residents, Bill Hewitt and Nicole Matz, said they like the Zoom meeting platform and hope that the township will continue to use it ever after coronavirus restrictions end.

Resident Doug Kern agreed and added that he thought the commissioner discussion prior to the vote to sell the sewer system last month was "extremely informative. I would have preferred to hear from the commissioners prior to the information meetings."

Tax Deadline to Move

In other news, the commissioners agreed that it might help those suffering financial difficulties from the pandemic to move the deadline for property tax payments.

A formal vote will occur at the 18 meeting, but the commissioners all agreed to move the deadline forward by one month, meaning no penalty will be levied against any taxpayer who pays by June 30.

The current deadline is May 31. 

Township Manager Michelle Reddick said the township has already collected 90 percent of its property taxes and that the discount period for paying early, when most people pay, ended at the end of March.

Paving Mervine Street

Reddick also reported that she has confirmed with the borough of Pottstown that they plan to pave their half of Mervine Street next year. The street forms part of the border between Pottstown and Upper Pottsgrove.

As a result, Reddick said the township plans to hold off on plans to pave its half and do it jointly next year with the borough.  

"But we need to let residents of that street know they need to repair their curbs and sidewalks, and the commissioners will have to decide how much time we give them," she said.

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