for christmas, maybe it IS time to rethink the aqua of it all?

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.

https://www.facebook.com/Ginny4PA/videos/1221133465137182/

https://www.facebook.com/Ginny4PA/videos/837250724147851/

https://www.facebook.com/Ginny4PA/videos/524162036279162/

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?

https://www.pahouse.com/InTheNews/Opinion/?id=126232

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

meet the busy beaver of west vincent township AND new garden township

Sometimes I forget about people. Take this guy John Granger, Township Manger for hire. I first heard about him in March, 2009 when he was appointed interim township manger in Radnor while manager in Solebury Township, Bucks County, after they fired Dave Bashore. It was almost former Coatesville now Phoenixville guy Jean Krack, but that is another story entirely, isn’t it? In 2016 Granger was in Aston, Delaware County. Before West Vincent, Granger was in Exeter Township, and his contract wasn’t renewed.

I remember literally saying when West Vincent hired him full time, couldn’t they do any better? But whatever, I am but a mere mortal and a female of many questions and opinions. But now there is an “A ha” moment of sorts. Why?

Well because John Granger is a pattern guy. He is doing something in West Vincent he did while full time manager in Solebury, Bucks County: He’s straddling two townships. Yes I am being repetitive.

And sadly, no, I am not kidding you.

Granger will be a “consultant” compensated at $100 per hour, said Board of Commissioners president Tom Masterson (Ward 6).

He came recommended by Radnor’s special labor counsel Neil A. Morris, according to one commissioner. Morris also recommended the township’s interim solicitor John B. Rice of the Bucks County law firm Grim, Biehn and Thatcher.

Granger has been manager in Solebury since 2003. Before that, he was manager of Towamencin Township in Montgomery County from 1991 to 2001.

He also runs a consulting business, Granger Associates, which he describes as “management services for local government, focusing on grant writing and strategic planning,” according to his resume.

The Chalfont resident said Monday he will be using some saved up vacation time at his Solebury Township job, and estimates that he will work anywhere from 30 to 50 hours per week in his Radnor position.

~ main line media news, sam strike article 3/24/2009

New Garden Township Agenda September 19, 2022

So West Vincent Township explain to me how your full time manager John Granger can be your treasurer too and NOW he is interim manger and secretary for New Garden Township as well? West Vincent has approximately 5500 residents and New Garden approximately 11,500 residents? Does he still live in the Chalfont area or did he move?


Great work if you can get it and clearly he can and how much is he making for everything? And this is again what he did when at Solebury Township. He also became Radnor Township’s interim manager. So is West Vincent is supposed to be full time and he’s only there on average 3 days a week, is West Vincent getting a rebate on salary? Wowza West Vincent one would have thought you learned with Wendelgass but even West Pikeland didn’t did they?

Granger has done this before. Kind of double dipping, eh? Township Manager and Treasurer in West Vincent. Interim Township Manager and Secretary in New Garden Township.

Not my country, not my people. But hey, putting it out there. Below after the photos of camera shy Manager Granger today is your history lesson:

So for the “Radnor Time” , Granger came from Solebury, Bucks County. He was not a fan favorite when an interim manager in Radnor Township circa 2009, was he? Didn’t he try for a FL job at some point too? Anyway. He popped up as a name on the Main Line in 2014 with some litigation a former candidate for Radnor Manager filed:

Jury rejects claim against Radnor Township by manager candidate
By RICHARD ILGENFRITZ | rilgenfritz@mainlinemedianews.com | The Delaware County Daily Times
PUBLISHED: March 5, 2014 at 1:26 p.m.

Although a jury declared Wednesday that his future military obligations were a factor in Radnor Township’s decision not to hire an Air Force major as manager in 2009, the same jury added that there were still other reasons as to why it did not hire him.

John J. Murphy, who is currently the city manager in Hobbs, New Mexico, filed suit in federal court in 2011 claiming that Radnor did not hire him as manager because of his future reserve military obligations when the township was looking for a new manager after firing its old manager, David Bashore, in 2009.

In its decision, the jury had to answer two questions.

The first question was whether Murphy’s ongoing reserve military obligations were a contributing factor in its decision not to hire him.

Though the jury answered yes to that question, it was also tasked with the next question as to whether there were other reasons for Radnor not to have hired Murphy. Again, the jury decided the answer was yes.

In order for Murphy to have won the case, the jury would have had to find that there were no other reasons for the township not to have hired him.

Following the verdict, both sides declined comment…..

The township launched a nationwide search for a new township manager in 2009 by bringing in a consultant. The hiring consultant then conducted the nationwide search and received 76 applications for the post.

Radnor has said Murphy was not among the top 17 qualified of the candidates. Murphy, however, had been the put in with a group of eight who were interviewed based on the request of Commissioner John Fisher.

Murphy, the son of a retired Philadelphia police officer and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, had been working as the city manager in Wilkes-Barre, for several years before learning that Radnor was looking for a new manager. In court he said getting the job in Radnor was his chance to come home again.

In testimony during the trial, Radnor said the board believed that Murphy had overstated his qualifications and his role in turning around the troubled finances of the city of Wilkes-Barre when he was manager.

Murphy is also the brother of former Congressman Patrick Murphy who represented a district in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County.

Among the issues that came up during the four-day trial was a phone call that Patrick Murphy made on behalf of his brother to the commissioners president at the time…

There were also disputes as to what was said to Murphy by former Radnor interim township manager John Granger.

Granger, in the interim position, was tasked with facilitating interviews with potential candidates in 2009 for Bashore’s replacement.

In his suit and during his testimony, Murphy claims that Granger told him prior to his interview that he was in his list of top candidates. Murphy added that after the interview, Granger called him and said some of the board members had concerns over his ongoing military commitments and he was not selected for a second interview.

On the stand Wednesday, Granger said he did not recall the conversations Murphy was referring to and that he would not have made some of the statements attributed to him.

Granger was brought in to be the township manager in Radnor temporarily while he was also township manager in Solebury Township in Bucks County.

According to Granger’s testimony, he planned on working for Radnor from April through Labor Day in 2009. In the end, he stayed until Dec. 31, 2009.

Granger disputed Murphy’s statements by telling the court that he did not have any favorites because he didn’t really care who Radnor hired.

So….I remember I wrote briefly about this again in 2020 when John Granger was appointed Township Manager of West Vincent Township. West Vincent has a checkered past and present when it comes to elected officials and appointed ones, doesn’t it? Granger was also in Towamencin too:

NEWS
Towamencin officials must remain vigilant

By LANSDALE REPORTER |
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2003 at 6:41 a.m.

Instead, they must keep foremost in their minds that the review highlighted an overall failure to follow formal municipal procedures.

And they must learn from their mistakes in allowing former township Manager John Granger to assume power that wasn‘t his – power he used to transfer $1.9 million from the township to the Towamencin Infrastructure Authority without authorization, according to the independent review.

Township officials and residents are living with the aftermath of these actions, and continue to grapple with such thorny issues as widening Forty Foot Road, building a pedestrian bridge over the widened highway and “village plans“ that have been both touted and questioned in Towamencin.

AT THIS POINT, the township is forging ahead with the controversial project, restarting the procedure to acquire rights-of-way needed for the road-widening and pedestrian bridge project…..WHAT HAS occurred in the past can‘t be changed. And instituting written procedures such as these should go far to ensure the township does not encounter similar problems…..

The other troubling aspect is the topic of John Granger, who apparently has not had to answer for any of his deeds. He left the township abruptly, worked for a time at Temple Ambler‘s Center for Sustainable Communities and now has left that job.

He is a difficult man to track down and refuses to comment on the topic. It would be the right thing for him to come forward and offer an explanation for his actions.

The supervisors should demand this explanation. The public deserves it. And then, with new procedures in force, perhaps the township can move forward.

~ landsdale repoter 4/19/2003

Now back up to 2007, when Granger was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer regarding open space:

Open spaces pinching suburbs
Municipalities find that keeping land free can turn into a money pit.

By Diane Mastrull, Inquirer Staff Writer
Published Aug 12, 2007

….In town halls across the suburbs, conservation euphoria is giving way to the sober realization that open space can be a money pit.

“What did we get ourselves into?” is the increasingly common refrain among municipal officials, said John Granger, manager of Solebury Township in Bucks County.

READING EAGLE: Exeter will search for new township manager

By KEITH SMOKER
PUBLISHED: January 14, 2020

Exeter Township supervisors on Monday voted to officially open the position of township manager. The vote came a week after they agreed not to renew current Manager John Granger’s contract.

Supervisor John Cusatis said later that Granger was given 30 days’ notice when the decision was made Jan. 7. Cusatis did not, when asked, specify a reason for Granger’s pending exit.

Then this pops up:

WFMZ 69 News: Exeter Twp. supervisors take back supervision of police department
Gregory Purcell Jun 27, 2022

EXETER TWP, Pa. – Monday night’s meeting of the Exeter Township Board of Supervisors was relatively calm and quiet, compared to last Wednesday’s special meeting during which the board voted to censure and remove as vice president David Hughes.

The subject of the supervisors’ focus at Monday’s meeting wasn’t Hughes but controversial former Township Manager John Granger, who was fired in early 2020.

Granger had changed the reporting protocol for the chief of police, having the position report to the township manager rather than the supervisors. During Monday’s meeting, the supervisors changed the reporting structure for the police chief back to the way it was before Granger became township manager.

Oh and this is a public record for the PUC from 2019: