When most people pay their monthly bills, there are always one or two that make them cringe just at the sight of the envelope. For many, especially in today’s economic times, its their mortgage and home heating bills. For others, its the cell phone (damned texting rates!). During football season, satellite television bills with the NFL Sunday Ticket are downright scary. In my household, none of those even come close to the stomach churning experience of laying my eyes on the water and sewage bill. You see, I live in Orwigsburg: Home of the worst water quality and highest water costs in Schuylkill County.
When I moved here from Hamburg three years, I was completely dumbfounded by the utter lack of quality to the tap water and equally baffled when I saw what the borough was charging me for it. Not since early childhood, when I made the mistake of taking a few swigs of my grandmother’s untreated well water, had I seen water so discolored. Neighbors told me not to worry though, because the borough had plans to overhaul the water mains throughout town. To their credit, they did, but in the process they squeezed every single dime they could out of its residents. Thankfully, the borough wants to change this. On Monday night, Orwigsburg Council listened to a proposal from the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority to buy the borough’s water and sewage service. The Clarke Report has three simple words for members of council: MAKE THE DEAL!
Right now, the cost of water and sewage to individual residents of Orwigsburg is astronomical. I pay approximately $320 every quarter for my little half of a double home. When I lived in Hamburg, we paid an average of $120 every quarter in our 3-bedroom townhouse. And that was with a possessed toilet that would start running at all hours of the day and night! If you’re keeping score at home, that’s $200 less for the same service with better quality product located a mere 12 miles down the road.
According to SCMA Chairman Frank Shoeneman (yes, THAT Frank Shoeneman, my political arch-enemy and War Board member Frank Shoeneman), the proposed deal is a “win-win” for all sides. Residents will pay a whole lot less for the same amount of water they are getting now. Shoeneman estimates a savings of approximately $256 per year (that’s a 20% reduction for me right out of the gate). Meanwhile, the borough will be relieved of a $10.9 billion debt service, be paid $1 million for watershed land, and receive $35,000 in cash to fund a new borough garage. That’s looks like a good deal to me (now if I could only get Shoeneman to abandon the War Board and join the reformers, my world would be perfect BWAHAHAHAHA).
Of course, as with any good idea, there are some skeptics who are aiming to slow the process down. Some are worried about the jobs of those men employed by the borough to administer the service. Others are concerned that they will no longer have adequate input into their service (as if we choose to have $300 water bills now). This has led to some residents demanding that they formally approve any deal by popular vote. The Clarke Report disagrees. Borough Council has an obligation to investigate the proposal and bargain with the SCMA for the best possible deal. If and when they decide that a sale would be in the best interests of the borough as a whole, they should pull the trigger. We voted these people into office to represent us in government, which sometimes means making decisions for us. We should allow the council to do the jobs we elected them to do. I can only pray for the sake of my wallet that they do the right thing.