is there quite literally something in the water in willistown?

Is this about the sewer issue or personal animus?

I almost titled this post “Hey Willistown don’t let reality get in the way of your delusion”, but then I decided that was just a little too rude. But it’s about these signs. We all keep seeing them and not all of them are actually in Willistown.

It makes you wonder why these signs have to be so nasty and where they originated from.

I didn’t look far. From being against chickens to sidewalks in extraordinary places, someone has been a busy, busy beaver, haven’t they?

Above is a screenshot from a second Willistown sewer website called WillistownSewer.org which apparently will be replacing SaveOurSewer.org

First of all, these are NOT non-profit organizations as there is a common misconception that you have to be a nonprofit to get a “.ORG” domain.

But let’s back up. I am sure this post will cause another Willistown Tempest in a Teapot. Sorry not sorry, it can’t be helped, and I am entitled to my opinion. And this is yet another issue in this particular township which is exhausting because it is again so nasty.

When I was growing up on the Main Line, Willistown to those of us on the eastern Main Line was this magical place of rolling hills, horses, Radnor hunt, farms. I can safely say I have been coming out to Willistown for decades longer than some residents have lived there or known how to spell Willistown.

No, I do not live in Willistown, but I have friends there. Quite a few friends. But Katie bar the door, they will be revoking my passport into Willistown. Again. You know because I have had a thing or two to say about things like the NOFIMBY neighbors of Castlebar Lane and WildFlower Farm? (No Farms In My Back Yard = NOFIMBY)

But sweet darling baby Jesus, and yes I am taking the Lord’s name in vain. This has seemed to stop really being about the sewer issue and more about destroying the good names of two men who have given a lot to their community named Bob Lange and Bill Shoemaker. Are they perfect? Are any of us? And these are people anyone can come to. They don’t see residents as political persuasions. Oh and speaking of that, are these signs somehow politically motivated? I ask because there is a third supervisor in Willistown. Her name is Molly Perrin. Why is Molly never mentioned? Molly why do you not ever say anything in defense of the other supervisors? Molly do you actually ever say anything at all?

(Oh is that too mean? She’s a politician so might as well ask her where she stands on this behavior in her township, right? Molly, do you have a voice? What does it sound like? )

And why are these signs targeting two individuals in Willistown all over as in also outside of Willistown? If y’all don’t want us non-Willistownians commenting, maybe don’t post the signs outside of the township for starters?

Ok, I am waiting. I know it is time to cue the refrain of “She doesn’t live in Willistown, she shouldn’t say anything!

No I don’t live in Willistown. I wouldn’t want to at this rate because people are mean as snakes. There is this nasty edge meets a misplaced sense of entitlement no matter what the issue. And to me, this whole sewer issue has turned personal, which defeats the purpose of trying to win an argument in the first place. Next example? Here, this screenshot:

Campaign contributions being mentioned are rather interesting because first thing that caught my eye was Tom Hogan stepped down as D.A. in 2019. Before COVID. So what is the date on the small contribution to Bill Shoemaker? The reality is ALL of these corporations hedge their bets. They give to all candidates regardless of political party. I mean is this guy implying in his opinion that an honorable man sold out his municipality, an entire municipality, for $250? For real? My opinion is political candidates should not take donations from big old corporations. All of these corporations want something, even if it is just a certain perception. And then these donations will always do more harm than good, also because of perception at times.

And I go back now to these new street signs because they only target two supervisors. There have always been three supervisors, yet only two are ever targeted. I think that is done as a political motivation and personal animus, and just like the First Amendment may allow individuals to pay for street signs like this, I am also allowed to have that opinion. These are after all the same people who like to point out that Bill and Bob are related by marriage and the families are large landholders. Are they the largest landholders? I don’t know and I don’t care. What that says to anyone rational is they have a vested interest in the Willistown community. Family roots. Generational connections to the land. Why is that bad and they didn’t become supervisors to have a gateway to other things, did they? They have deep roots in the community, which doesn’t make them villains in some bad play or made for Lifetime TV movie. AND if they were NOT involved in the community the same folks would criticize them for that too.

But this is how all issues are approached in Willistown: lay siege and destroy the reputation of your neighbors. Don’t fight fair, act like gutter snipes. We’ve seen it over Wildflower Farm and other issues. Remember when M. Night Shyamalan wanted fences? That made regional papers and national entertainment news. Now it’s like “Oh he’s our wonderful neighbor”.

Let’s talk other issues for a moment like development. I am not a fan. No secret there. But I am a realist. The reason gets approved is simple: the Municipalities Planning Code of The Commonwealth of PA is woefully outdated by freaking DECADES. So it really doesn’t matter how local government officials might feel about development the reason above all others they can’t stop developments is zoning. Local zoning is guided by the Municipalities Planning Code so until it is changed to PROTECT our communities this is wash, rinse, repeat. It requires I think an act of the state constitution to update/overhaul the municipalities planning code comprehensively. There have been little things here and there, but not a comprehensive overhaul.

The county planning authority, AKA the Chester County Planning Commission keeps track of all developments in the county. I personally think they suck and are too pro development, but check out what they have to offer and be prepared to be horrified by the sheer volume of development marching across Chester County.

In Willistown, they talk about where developers already are, but not where they aren’t and what should also be saved. In Willistown they talk about land without conservation easements, but more so often than not when the horse is out of the barn and developers are already submitting plans. Willistown is not alone here. Most municipalities are like this. But where Willistown is different and should be better at conservation is the fact that Willistown is home to the Willistown Conservation Trust. So why isn’t more land in conservation?

Look at what is also brewing also in Westtown. Everyone wanted to preserve Crebilly. That time is here, and it’s possible. But will it happen? If the the Westtown Township Open Space Tax Referendum for Acquisition of Crebilly Farm doesn’t happen will Crebilly be saved? I mean do people think land conservation is actually FREE?

In Willistown there are lots of opinions on preserving open space. But someone politely pointed out the other day after a meeting that getting land into preservation requires money. And yes, you need to negotiate with a fat wallet if residents want more land conserved, especially when the developers have entered the ring. We as residents are NOT protected anywhere in PA because of the outdated, outmoded, skewed to developers and development Municipalities Planning Code. So basically communities have to BUY what they want to SAVE in order to actually save it. We might like how something looks, but if our communities don’t own it or us as individuals, does it matter in the end?

I am not saying that any of this is right, but it is reality. A very sad reality.

Another comment is those who are slamming two families over certain land parcels in Willistown isn’t going to get people where they want to be, either. With one family in particular, I find it egregious since they have literally given so much to Willistown. That is all I am saying on that topic.

People do not have to put their land into conservation. Some people don’t want to. I wish they did, but for some that was never the plan. And I still say that as someone who hates and despises all of this development. And I feel for Willistown residents over one huge parcel in particular. But I don’t see it stopping, sadly. But that doesn’t mean you all as residents can’t go look at all of the other parcels which you consider important that are not in play and work towards more conservation as a community, right?

But back to the verbal sewage over the sewer. A lot of municipalities can’t afford them long term now, so they are selling them to companies who are protected by state law when it comes to rate hikes. I have a problem with those rate hikes, but once again, it’s state law protecting what isn’t positive for Pennsylvania communities everywhere. So why aren’t people expressing outrage to State Reps and State Senators? Those are the people who can change this crap. Just like those state level elected officials are the people who can help communities worried about public water versus those on wells when it comes to all this new development….a lot of which doesn’t necessarily want to pay for public water and public sewer hook-ups and why shouldn’t they do that? Developers are adding all of these new people to communities and taking the profits and leaving? So why shouldn’t they have to do public sewer and public water hook-ups? Developers seem to be shielded from paying their fair share of anything, don’t they?

OK now a couple of articles about these sewer sales:

Inquirer: In Philly suburbs, sewer systems are for sale, and citizens push back, fearing rate hikes

by Andrew Maykuth
Published May 2, 2021

The frenzy of acquisitions in Pennsylvania is driven by a 2016 state law that encourages the consolidation of smaller water and wastewater systems under private ownership. The law, called Act 12, allows investor-owned utilities to pay an appraised fair-market value for an acquired system, rather than its lower depreciated cost or “book value,” and then to recoup the costs through higher rates.

Fair-value laws, enacted in about a dozen states, have triggered a land rush by private buyers to pay top dollar for systems. Some acquisitive public authorities have also increased their offering prices to compete with private companies — Conshohocken’s preferred bidder was the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority, which has acquired systems in Montgomery and Chester Counties. Under either public or private ownership, the higher price is passed on to customers through higher rates….. Officials from five states told the U.S. General Accountability Office that one potential disadvantage of fair-market value laws is their potential to increase a utility’s rates, according to a GAO report released Monday.

Five studies examined by the GAO found that average water rates charged by private for-profit utilities are about $15 to $21 higher per month than the rates charged by public water utilities. Private utilities have an incentive to generate a return for investors, the GAO said, while public utilities may need to respond to political pressures to keep rates low for all residents.

Every municipality has a different reason for approving or rejecting a privatization, and different circumstances — they may require significant infrastructure investments that would be better managed by a larger private entity, or already have high rates. Some towns just want to get out of the sewer business and focus on core public services

~ Philaddelphia Inquirer may 2021

And there is this article from NBC News for which you won’t hit a pay wall:

NBC News: Residents push back at high sewage and water bills from private companies

When Margo Woodacre opened her sewage bill in April, she did a double take. Her latest charges jumped 42 percent, to $37 per 1,000 gallons from $26 per 1,000 gallons. That was a major hit on the budget of the 71-year-old retired social worker who lives in Landenberg, Pennsylvania.

But she told NBC News she’s worried the rate hikes have just started. In 2017, her cash-strapped township of New Garden accepted a bid to sell off its sewer system for $29 million to a private investor-owned company called Aqua. But as part of the sale, Aqua could continue to increase rates by as much as 51 percent, with the utility commission’s approval, according to the agreement between Aqua and New Garden Township…. New Garden Township Solicitor Vince Pompo said in an email that the township had sold the sewer system because it “was aging infrastructure which was predicted to require fairly significant further rate increases of its own.” The township plans to use the sale profits to clean and develop public parks and improve streets in one of its villages….

~ NBC NEWS JUNE 2021

I understand why municipalities shed these sewer responsibilities, BUT Aqua is growing to be a bit of a monopoly and the state laws (fair market bill, etc) protecting their ability to jump the rates is disturbing. Privatizing water systems has become a contentious issue around here in Chester County, as well as across the state. I understand that improvements have to happen, and that is what causes a majority of these sales in the first place, but I have been doing research and where rates have been jumped it has been astronomical.

I feel as more and more of these sales are inevitable that the PA PUC should amend the laws and have staggered tiers of rates (as in they can only increase rates every so many years) and that rates should be capped and people on fixed or low incomes and seniors, they should pay less. State elected officials need to amend the laws so people aren’t so scalped with rate increases. It’s not the fault of the residents of PA when their municipalities decide to sell. If Harrisburg did something about the rates to protect residents, people wouldn’t object as much.

And if you paid attention to what I have said for years about OVER-development out here, you would realize that ALL along part of the problems with all of this development are the stresses placed on infrastructure. D’oh infrastructure in part are sewer systems.

Which is again why I have maintained all along you can’t just storm the local proverbial Bastille, y’all need to Git R’ Done in HARRISBURG and get the elected officials there to amend the laws that have sway on a local level.

In East Whiteland, the sewer sale has been approved it looks like based on a press release I found yesterday as a matter of fact.

Essential Utilities’ Aqua Pennsylvania Subsidiary Acquires the Municipal Wastewater Assets of East Whiteland Township
August 12, 2022 02:47 PM Eastern Daylight Time

BRYN MAWR, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Essential Utilities Inc. (NYSE: WTRG) announced today that its Pennsylvania wastewater subsidiary has acquired the municipal wastewater assets of East Whiteland Township, Chester County for approximately $55 million.

East Whiteland Township’s wastewater system serves approximately 8,200 customer-equivalents including residential and commercial connections. The system is comprised of 57 miles of collection mains and 12 pump stations. The collection system accepts waste from the neighboring municipalities of Malvern Borough and Charlestown Township. Its waste passes through Aqua’s Valley Creek Trunk Sewer system to the Valley Forge Sewer Authority for treatment. Essential’s unregulated subsidiary, Aqua Resources, purchased the 9-mile Valley Creek trunk system in December 2018, which consists of gravity sewers, force mains and two pump stations, from the Tredyffrin Municipal Township Authority.

“It’s particularly pleasing to be entrusted with the wastewater assets of East Whiteland Township, a municipality for which we’ve provided water service for years,” said Essential Chairman and CEO Chris Franklin. “Our excellent water service in the East Whiteland community brought important credibility to our offer to handle wastewater service in the township. We look forward to serving both water and wastewater customers throughout the township in the future.”

Aqua Pennsylvania President Marc Lucca said, “We look forward to providing excellent service to the East Whiteland community and have already identified the need for $17 million in infrastructure improvements over the next decade including two major sewer extensions. That work will likely begin with the Planebrook and Bacton Hill roads’ sewer extensions,” said Lucca.

East Whiteland is the second acquisition completed by Essential’s Aqua companies in 2022. The company currently has six additional signed purchase agreements to acquire water and wastewater systems in three of our existing states, which have a total purchase price of more than $363 million and represent approximately 216,000 equivalent retail customers or equivalent dwelling units.

Essential is one of the largest publicly traded water, wastewater and natural gas providers in the U.S., serving approximately 5.5 million people across 10 states under the Aqua and Peoples brands. Essential is committed to excellence in proactive infrastructure investment, regulatory expertise, operational efficiency and environmental stewardship. The company recognizes the importance water and natural gas play in everyday life and is proud to deliver safe, reliable services that contribute to the quality of life in the communities it serves. For more information, visit http://www.essential.co.

Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater is a subsidiary of Aqua Pennsylvania and serves approximately 43,000 connections in 16 counties throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Visit AquaAmerica.com for more information or follow Aqua on Facebook at facebook.com/MyAquaAmerica and on Twitter at @MyAquaAmerica.

Donna Alston
Communications & Marketing
M: 484.368.4720
Media@Essential.co
Brian Dingerdissen
Investor Relations
610.645.1191
BJDingerdissen@Essential.co

I have to be honest, I don’t even know if this registered with East Whiteland residents. And again, I am not saying communities should NOT object to these sewer sales. I have not actually ever said that. It’s the misinformation and attacks lobbed at two good men in Willisotwn which bothers me. So yo’ Willistown, you wonder why your last township manager decided to leave? You wonder why we looking at you from different parts of the county ask if there is literally something in the water?

Another sewer issue related article from August 9th to note:

Inquirer:

Consumer Advocate sues to overturn Aqua Pa. takeover of Chesco town’s sewer system
An administrative law judge recommended rejecting Aqua’s $17.5 million acquisition of the Willistown Township sewer system. The PUC went ahead and approved it.

by Andrew Maykuth
Published Aug 9, 2022

The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate has sued to block Aqua Pennsylvania’s takeover of a Chester County town’s sewer system, saying the $17.5 million sale will fail to deliver “affirmative public benefits” and would instead harm all Aqua customers with higher rates.

The Office of Consumer Advocate, headed by Patrick M. Cicero, asked the Commonwealth Court on Friday to overturn a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) decision last month that allowed Aqua to buy the wastewater system in Willistown Township, the latest acquisition of a public water and sewer system with the help of a 2016 state law that encourages the consolidation of utility ownership.

The Consumer Advocate’s Office, which reports to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, says the PUC erred by disregarding an administrative law judge’s recommendation to reject the sale, which the hearing examiner said would cause greater harms than benefits. The PUC voted 3-0 on June 8 to approve the sale to the Aqua, a subsidiary of Essential Utilities Inc., based in Bryn Mawr….But the consumer advocate said the case could have implications far beyond Willistown, a relatively small system serving nearly 2,300 customers in the affluent town near Malvern. The practical effect of the PUC’s ruling is that any acquisition by a “fit” buyer in the future will be approved if it can be shown it will promote regionalization of utility systems.

“This ruling, if allowed to stand, would eliminate the statutory requirement to conduct a fact-based weighing of harms and benefits to determine if a specific transaction will affirmatively promote the interest of the public in some substantial way,” wrote Erin L. Gannon, a senior assistant consumer advocate….

Robert A. Swift, a Willistown resident and private attorney, filed a separate Commonwealth Court lawsuit on Friday, seeking to block the sale.

The consumer advocate’s legal challenge could also be expanded to include Aqua’s $54.9 million purchase of the East Whiteland sewer system, which is adjacent to Willistown. A different administrative law judge had recommended that the PUC reject the East Whiteland transaction, saying that Aqua had not demonstrated any cost reductions or efficiencies from deal. Despite the recommendation, the PUC voted 3-0 on July 29 to approve the sale.

~ philadelphia inquirer auguest 9th, 2022

Another thing to read is a WHYY article on this Act 12 from 2017.

WHYY: Act 12, explained: Customers more likely to see rates rise with Pa.’s new water privatization process
ByEmily Previti August 18, 2017

Pennsylvania is already known among water companies and their shareholders as being a good state for doing business.

And now, it’s even better.

That was the conclusion of a report out this week from Moody’s Investor’s Service.

The change is Act 12, a law that offers a different way to privatize water systems in Pennsylvania.

~WHYY 2017

Now of course we go back to the PUC Public Utilities Commission which is SUPPOSED to act to ensure the safety and well-being of Pennsylvania residents, but all you have to do is look at the pipelines issue to see how much they “care.”

Pennsylvania is kind of a cesspool. It doesn’t mean our local communities have to be. But lots of local communities cannot see the forest for the trees.

Nasty signs now aimed at two good men accomplish nothing. They are just nasty signs. We all know I am an equal opportunity offender when it comes to politics and politicians. But Bob Lange and Bill Shoemaker are good guys. They care about their communities. You don’t have to like them or agree with them, but remember these are two people who will actually have a conversation with residents.

But these signs? They literally accomplish nothing and are abhorrent. You want to fight to save your sewer system although your municipality is saying they can’t afford to keep it? That’s fine, fight for what you believe in…but do it without these nasty signs.

THAT is what I am saying.

Quite simply: Rude A.F.

1 thought on “is there quite literally something in the water in willistown?

  1. How delightful would it be if Mr. Batchelor could do something positive and constructive with all of his copious free time rather than doing everything possible to annoy the ever-loving crap out of everyone in his community?

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