Sewer rates in Washington Township will soon rise.
On Monday night the financially-strapped Washington Township Municipal Authority (WTMA) had no choice but to raise rates to its customers. The new sewer rate per year is $1,381.16. The previous sewer rate of $926 per annum was one of the highest in the state. Residents whose sewer bills had been $231.25 each quarter will now pay $345.29.
The WTMA has a debt to bond holders of $12 million that was guaranteed by a previous Washington Township board of supervisors. If the sewer authority fails financially, the township must stand surety for the loans, despite the fact the sewer authority is a separate legal entity from the township.
As a result, in December the board raised property taxes to offset some of the sewer authority’s debt.
Amy Sutryn, chairperson of the WTMA, discussed the possibility of contacting bond holders of the sewer authority’s debt to assist the WTMA. Solicitor Daniel Becker cautioned if the sewer authority contacts the bond holders precipitously, it may “scare them off, especially if the WTMA is not in danger of default.”
As yet, the sewer authority has indicated it is not ready to default. It was decided to table the discussion for the time being.
Sutryn presented a diagram she had drawn up to the members of the sewer authority for their review. The diagram would assist anyone, including developers, who present a plan to the sewer authority to know, according to Sutryn, “what to do next.” It would coordinate information between the WTMA and the Washington Township planning commission and avoid confusion for anyone who submits a development plan.
In other business the WTMA voted to proceed with litigation to see if the WTMA condemnation of a portion of the Treichler property for an easement is legal.
Last month, the Washington Township board of supervisors, who have the power to appoint members to the WTMA, appointed themselves to serve on the sewer authority. The appointment of the three members of the board of supervisors to the sewer authority effectively gave control of the sewer authority to the board of supervisors.
Both the WTMA and the board of supervisors meetings are held on the same night. In a quiet, uneventful meeting, the board of supervisors agreed to rebid the Barto Park project that is next to the township building. The parking lot and the walking trail will be omitted from the new plan along with an underground drain field. The estimated cost of the new project is $40,000. The park project will be paid from recreation council funds. Additionally, the board has applied for a grant to fund the project.
Township Manager Jason Ganster requested and the board approved an updated operations emergency plan. Current names and phone numbers will be added to the emergency plans.
Fire Chief Fred Bates reported to the board that after a month in operation “things are going well” for the newly created Eastern Berks Fire Company.