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High Sewer Costs still an issue in Washington Township
Written by Mary Gibbs Kershner, Correspondent
2018-07-03

            There is a slim chance that sewer rate payers in Washington Township will get relief from high sewer fees this year.  On Thursday night, Paul Janssen, Director, Center for Excellence In Local Government, at Albright College, presented his review of Washington Township's sewer system finances to the Board of Supervisors. 

            The township municipal building was filled to capacity with citizens who hoped to hear some good news from Janssen.  Janssen noted the township's sewer plant was in good shape and well run.

            He explained the sewer fee is $115 each month and is billed quarterly at $345.  Annually, the rate works out to $1,380.  Each month $76.25 of the monthly fee goes to service the sewer authority debt.  Janssen presented his report that noted the sewer system has revenues of $1,444,075 from rate payers and cash reserves of $941,590.  

            In 2012 the Washington Township Municipal Authority (WTMA), the township's sewer authority, was in danger of bankruptcy because of its $12 million dollar debt.  If the WTMA had become bankrupt a receiver would have taken over the system and sewer fees would have skyrocketed. 

            To prevent that from happening, the Board of Supervisors disbanded the sewer authority, the WTMA.  Now, the Board of Supervisors administers the sewer system.  The Board of Supervisors issued municipal bonds to cover the $12 million dollar debt of the WTMA because Washington Township was in excellent financial shape.  As a condition of the bonds the township must hold a reserve of $1 million dollars at all times. 

            Rate payers hope, because of the large reserve, some relief could be afforded to them. 

            The current debt of the sewer system is $9,655,000 with an annual payment of $866,000 that will be paid off in 2032.  Janssen noted with some revision to the sewer budget, a slight reduction of approximately $9 per month or $108 per year could occur in 2019.  

            Currently, there are approximately 940 EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) in the sewer system.  The sewer system will reach capacity at 1100 EDUs.  The sewer system was designed to be expanded without any interruption in service.  Janssen noted to expand the sewer system will cost approximately $5 million dollars.  The expansion will be covered by developers who will pay for every EDU they need.  He said as development occurs user fees will decline.  Janssen remarked that as time goes on the financial outlook of the sewer system will only get better.  

            One resident asked Janssen why everyone in the township, whether they are connected to the sewer system or not, cannot share in the cost of the sewer system.  He used the example of school districts that tax the entire community even though not everyone uses the school. 

            Janssen answered that Pennsylvania law does not permit a property not serviced by sewer to be billed for a service it does not receive.  Another resident requested the township compel real estate agents and builders to inform potential real estate buyers of the township sewer fees. 

            Board of Supervisors Chairman, Dave Moyer, said, "Real estate buyers can call the township for the information, but the township cannot force a seller or his agent to inform a buyer of the sewer fees." 

            John Wynne, a resident of Spring Valley Village, has been a tireless champion of lower sewer rates. Wynne asked Janssen why the township could not give a "one-time credit of $200."  Janssen noted it is better if the sewer rates were lowered on a more permanent basis. 

            Without making any promises to lower sewer fees the Board of Supervisors agreed to study Janssen's review and look at its budget for 2019.  

            In other matters, representatives of the Boyertown Soccer Club want to lease Washington Township's JK Memorial Field.  The club must do some excavation and improvements to the field.  The club requested permission from the Supervisors to reduce the size of the concession stand to be constructed on the field. 

            The club representatives explained that if the size of the concession building were reduced, it would not be necessary to install a retention basin on the field.  Chairman Moyer said, "I have a problem with a lease that extends for 20 years when the rest of the township residents can only use the field 4 or 5 times a year."  The Board of Supervisors and the club agreed to discuss the matter further at a later date.

            In water news, Victoria Village consists of 104 residences in Washington Township.  The village receives its water from Bally Borough.  Washington Township distributes Bally's water to the village.  The contract for water between the borough and the township for Victoria Village's water will expire in September, 2018.  Bally Borough has requested the contract be extended for 1 more year.  

            Township Manager, Rich Sichler, announced Boyertown School District reversed its decision not to collect a per capita tax of $15.  The school district considered the tax a "nuisance" to collect.  As a result, the school district will not give up the revenue from the per capita tax.

            Washington Township and Pike Township will enter into an intergovernmental cooperative agreement to share services, if needed.  Chairman Moyer noted, "If townships share equipment, it helps everybody."  

            Chairman Moyer wished all Washington Township citizens a "Happy Fourth of July."  Moyer warned residents, "Do not blow your hands off playing with fireworks."  

            The next water authority meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.

            The next Washington Township Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July, 26, 2018 at 7 p.m.


 

 

 

 

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