Well I was talking to a very dear friend today. She lives in the New Garden area. She is one of the most diligent and practical people I know. Literally have known her since I was like maybe 12 or 13. Our parents were friends. And she quietly says to me today something about have I seen what is going on in New Garden Township about their AQUA issues. I said yes, a bit and I thought gosh I didn’t even send her my post on the extra special interim manager, but anyway….
Then my jaw hit the floor. My friend said her water bill under AQUA ownership went from $250 each billing cycle to $900!
That news made me go watch the recent New Garden meeting recordings that my friend and friend to all communities Ginny Kerslake had posted on Facebook.
So now I am wondering (aloud) if municipalities selling to AQUA is a mistake?
I don’t think we can un-ring the bell on inked deals, and things are still in court that would potentially stop the sales in East Whiteland and Willistown, although I find that unlikely, but who knows?
These municipalities can’t afford their sewer systems any longer, and I do believe that is true, BUT now I am wondering what part utility companies have in that?
And something else I am now wondering about might sound crazy BUT is there ANY way that AQUA could force those of us on septic and wells to hook up to them?
Oh and I think AQUA, or I should say I know AQUA watches this blog. But as a consumer and a resident where one of these sales is pending, I am actually allowed to have questions. Even now. And WHY do I have questions? Watching that whole crazy recent meeting that was held in New Garden. That and having a friend today tell me how much their bill increased (with kids in college and not there all of the time, no less.)
I also keep coming back to those lovely laws in Harrisburg that allow AQUA to increase their rates. So now I wonder aloud what so many others wonder: is AQUA just getting what they paid back via these increases so is that a good thing for consumers in the end?
Above is a link to a press release by State Rep Christina Sappey from this September. This is what jumped out:
Recently, rate increases for water and wastewater services provided by Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. (Aqua) went into effect for over 400,000 customers in 32 counties across the commonwealth. Many residents, including seniors on fixed incomes, have been surprised and frustrated to receive bills that have nearly doubled.
The current rules regarding rate regulations and water utility sales are not in the consumer’s best interest. It is imperative that reform is considered in Harrisburg to prevent future prioritization of corporate profits over residents’ access to a basic necessity, such as water.
I share the frustration of Aqua customers going through this current increase. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is the regulatory authority in Pennsylvania for utility rates. Utilities wishing to increase rates must submit a request to the commission for approval. The PUC is currently comprised of three commissioners, each appointed by the governor on a five-year term and confirmed by the State Senate.
When Aqua submitted this request in 2021, I urged the PUC to hold in-person hearings for residents to voice concerns. When that request was denied, State Rep. John Lawrence and I hosted a telephonic public hearing and I joined many of you in testifying against the then-proposed additional charges. Despite these efforts, the PUC commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rate increase in May of 2022.
Recently, I wrote to the PUC providing examples of the negative impact the approved rates have had and requesting a review of current charges to ensure they align with the commission-approved rates. I encourage anyone who feels their bill does not properly reflect their usage or the approved rate to file a complaint with the PUC.
Today’s state laws allow for inflated valuations of financially solvent public water and wastewater utilities by private companies, enticing local municipalities and authorities to sell for a large return in the short term, only for those costs to be recouped through the ratepayer’s wallet. These processes are done with little transparency or direct input from those that it impacts most, ratepayers.~ STATE REP CHRISTINA SAPPEY 9/30/22
I want to be abundantly clear here: I still do NOT approve the way Willistown residents have been treating Bob Lange and Bill Shoemaker. There is a THIRD supervisor, and there was the THIRD supervisor who was all for the sale and then resigned before she had been a supervisor very long, correct? What was her name? Oh yes, Barbara Handelin, right?
My other issue with this in Willistown is the inability for some residents to realize this is NOT a Democrat vs. Republican issue, it is a COMMUNITY issue that affects EVERYONE, i.e. it is non-partisan. I have NOT been a fan of the shenanigans to date and every meeting it is essentially the SAME people repeating themselves. Surely there are OTHER residents affected, yes? Well people, be polite and either zoom a meeting and comment or go in person. But the same people speaking pretty much every time? Umm, people tune that out after a while, even if they believe in the issue. And where were all of you while Willistown was deciding to sell or not? Why is it in Willistown it feels like people wake up only AFTER the horse has left the proverbial barn?
So yes, I am indeed wondering aloud in the final month of 2022 about this. It doesn’t mean I have been “won over”, it means for the first time I am articulating concerns I have always had. It’s like now that the 3 ring circus in Willistown has quieted some I have had time to think.
And when one of your more long term friends tells you HOW MUCH their bill jumped, well, it HAS to make you think. And of course how it all went down in New Garden also has to make you think. All those supervisors singing the chorus of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil etc etc, right? Quid est veritas? What is truth?
I do know that Willistown and East Whiteland BOTH notified residents, held meetings, etc. COVID or not, meetings were zoomed if not in person and well, a lot of people did nothing. I even kept putting it out there. But New Garden? That place is rather odd, isn’t it?
And I also really want to know if those of us on wells and septic will be allowed to stay as we are? I have never heard that questioned answered. I also wonder aloud if AQUA could try to be more community minded? What if they supported measures in Harrisburg that might put the brakes on their rate jumping seemingly willy nilly?
It’s a recession. In my humble opinion we have been playing kick the can down the road with recession since circa 2008. Maybe it’s time to just stop and think on this a little longer?
Sign me, thinking out loud. Happy December, y’all.
Ratepayers hold Aqua, New Garden accountable for skyrocketing wastewater bills
11/22/2022 04:28PM ● By Richard Gaw
For more than four hours at the New Garden Elementary School auditorium on Nov. 21, three factions sorted through the smoldering mass of information that lay at the creation of an agreement of sale that has been on the front burner of controversy in the township for the past several years.
In one corner of the room, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors sat a table facing another table occupied by three executives from Aqua Pennsylvania (Aqua), including its president Marc Lucca. The most dominant presence at the meeting, however, were the more than 200 township residents who sat and stood in protest of the reason that drew them there: the massive increase they are seeing in their wastewater bills from Aqua – as much as a 140 percent increase over the past year – that are arriving in their mailboxes as part of the residue from the township’s sale of its wastewater system to the Big Water giant for $29.5 million in 2020….
Nearly from the start, the patience of those in the audience to sit through the complicated alphabet soup of agencies and legal and legislative delays was paper thin, particularly during an hour-long presentation by former township official and director of planning and projects Spence Andress, who painstakingly sifted through a two-inch high stack of documents that described the minutia of what led to the eventual sale of the township’s system.
He said that a major factor leading to the decision by the Board of Supervisors and the township’s Sewer Authority to sell off the system was influenced by the cost of mitigating the infrastructure problems of the township’s vastly outdated wastewater system, which would cost the township an estimated $1.5 million a year, as well as an additional $1.5 million for debt service.
‘Allow us to speak!’
Halfway through Andress’ presentation, Peter Mrosinski and Margo Woodacre, two of the most prominent voices of opposition, shared their argument that the nature of the meeting was designed to shut down the residents. Their argument reflected the contents of a flyer that was circulated by KWA before the meeting that said that a former agreement with board chairman Steve Allaband would allow the group to lead the discussion, but that the idea was rejected earlier that afternoon by the supervisors. “Unfortunately, our supervisors once again appear to be covering their tracks and doing the bidding of Aqua to silence any meaningful discussion,” the flyer read.
Pa. approves increase in Aqua water and sewer rates. How much, it won’t say.
The Pa. Public Utility Commission granted Aqua’s rate hike request, apparently overriding a judge’s recommendation for a lower increase. But the PUC will take several days to announce the details.
Inquirer/ by Andrew Maykuth
Published May 12, 2022
Aqua Pennsylvania’s rate hike: The price per flush will go up 50% as early as Thursday
Aqua’s water rates will increase about 10%, and wastewater rates will go up 51% this week. In towns whose sewer systems were recently acquired by Aqua, the impact will be more severe.
Inquirer/by Andrew Maykuth
Published May 17, 2022
It’s time to repeal the Pa. law that allows the sale of municipal water systems | Editorial
Officials in Bucks County were absolutely right not to sell their system to a private company. Now, lawmakers must reverse the measure known as Act 12.
Inquirer/ by The Editorial Board
Published Sep 18, 2022
As Pa. municipalities sell water systems to for-profit companies, consumers are left paying the price | Editorial
It is irresponsible for local governments to peddle these valuable public assets and leave customers at the mercy of businesses who are all but guaranteed to jack up their bills.
Inquiere/ by The Editorial Board
Updated Aug 18, 2022