SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS Commissioners choose not to oppose the lease or sale of the Allentown water and sewer system
A plea to oppose the lease or sale of the Allentown water and sewer system has been rejected by the Salisbury Board of Commissioners.
Dan Poresky, chair, City of Allentown Environmental Action Committee, and a leading advocate in a referendum drive to put the lease or sale of the water and sewer system on the ballot for a vote by city residents, spoke at the Feb. 14 meeting.
Poresky urged township officials to go on the record as opposing the city's plan.
Salisbury buys water from the Allentown Water Authority and resells it to township residents. Salisbury also buys water from the Bethlehem Water Authority.
Salisbury Township BOC President James Brown and Salisbury Township Manager Randy Soriano rejected Poresky's plea, saying the township has no legal standing in the controversy.
"I'm not sure this board has any standing," Soriano said.
"I don't know that we [the BOC] should get involved with that [city water system plans]," Brown said.
"We just buy water," Soriano said. "They [Allentown] could increase rates, which they have."
"That [city water system sale] is not a township matter. That is a city issue," Soriano said.
The Whitehall Board of Commissioners has voted to not oppose the city water system plans.
Macungie Borough Council has voted to send a letter to city officials opposing the city water system plans.
A petition with 4,500 signatures was collected to place the issue on the Allentown ballot.
Allentown officials, led by Allentown Mayor Edward Pawlowski, are trying to finalize the water system sale by spring or summer.
A forum on the issue sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Lehigh Valley was to have been held Feb. 19 in the Lehigh County Government Center, Allentown.
Pawlowski said the water and sewer system lease or sale is necessary to offset debt incurred to pay for city police and firemen pension funding obligations.
"I'm one of the group who's opposing the Allentown water plans," Poresky said during the courtesy of the floor portion of the BOC meeting.
Poresky lambasted the city's plan for a hoped-for one-time windfall payment of $150 million to $250 million to privatize the city's water and sewer system for 50 years.
"They've [the entity that would purchase the water system] got to get the money back from anybody who uses water or sewer services," Poresky said. "Many of the companies who are bidding [on the water system] have a terrible track record."
The Lehigh County Authority is one of the apparent bidders for the water system. Poresky accused the LCA of "alleged violations of EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] rules, lack of responsiveness and empire-building.
"It's going to cost you and everyone in your township and you'll have no recourse," Poresky said.
"If they [Allentown officials] just raised taxes to pay for the pensions, they could," Poresky claimed. "You don't need a 50-year solution to solve a 20-year problem."
Poresky also claimed that 70 percent of Allentown's water source is "high-quality" spring water.
He claimed the entity buying the water system could sell the spring water and use the creek water source for its customers.
"Allentown only uses 50 percent [of its] capacity," Poresky said.