SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP —
South Pymatuning Township supervisors didn’t sign a proposed water contract with Sharpsville Tuesday night. Instead, they countered with their own six-point offer.
It’s a sign that talks will drag on even more, but it also means every customer of Sharpsville’s water system will pay more starting next month. Borough council had said the water hike it approved last week would be rescinded if the township agreed to extend its contract for another 10 years.
But that didn’t happen.
Supervisors presented Sharpsville Borough Manager Ken Robertson with their own proposal for a 20-year contract.
Some of the details mirror what Sharpsville has offered to South Py. But here are the differences in the details:
ä The township would be “free and clear” to negotiate rates with other water companies to supply areas of the township that don’t have public water service. (Sharpsville has exclusive rights to serve the township’s water needs.)
ä South Py wants its monthly water bill to have a separate line item reflecting how much it’s spending to pay off the borough’s state Pennvest loan, along with an end date for that expense. (The township’s current bill doesn’t include such a breakdown.)
ä Once the $4.5 million Pennvest loan is paid off, the township wants partial ownership, plus royalties, from water lines that were replaced with that money. Supervisors said South Py paid for 40 percent of the loan, so the township wants 40 percent ownership of the lines, which are located in the borough. There’s no specific royalty amount mentioned, but “royalties should be sufficient enough to cover all future expenses of the lines, such as long-term maintenance, repair and equipment costs.” (Currently, the borough owns its water lines, and the township owns its infrastructure.)
After handing the township’s proposal to Robertson, Mike Nashtock, chairman of the board of supervisors, referred to it as “a little help from our friends. It’s not overly complicated.”
Robertson initially said he didn’t plan to comment during the meeting, and that he was there to listen. But as time went on, it turned into a back-and-forth between him and the supervisors. He pointed out that some of their requests had already been answered – that the only allowed increase in water rates would follow any hikes passed along by Aqua Pennsylvania, the water provider, and that if there was an increase customers in both Sharpsville and South Py would pay it.
“I think this is a pretty good start,” Supervisor Mark Presley said. “You don’t think it’s a good start, but we all three put some good thought into this.”
Nashtock added, “I think this better pinpoints our issues.”
Robertson wondered why the township wouldn’t act now to save its residents and largest employer – Dean Dairy – from a 32.7 percent rate hike. (Sharpsville last week approved a $1.45 increase for 1,000 gallons. It means South Py’s bill will increase from $4.44 to $5.89 for every 1,000 gallons.)
“Why wouldn’t you take a step now to save your people and businesses money?” Robertson asked.
Dean Dairy told The Herald last week the rate increase would cost it $100,000.
South Py residents faithfully attend the supervisors’ monthly meeting, and they were there in regular force Tuesday – though they came in after the back-and-forth with Robertson was over.
Dennis Sump was the first to ask about the status of the negotiations. “Are we close?”
After a brief update by Nashtock, resident Evelyn Klein asked, “Get to the point. Why aren’t you signing?” When Nashtock told her residents at the meetings have pressured them to stand firm, Klein wasn’t impressed. “I still think you should sign it.”
Water rates go up next month
SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP —
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