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Five municipalities say 'yes' to regional sewer authority, want deal with York City

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Five municipalities surrounding York City have approved the creation of a regional sewer authority with the hope of buying the city's wastewater treatment plant and keeping sewer rates under local government control.

This past week, boards in Manchester, West Manchester, Spring Garden and York townships and North York borough all unanimously adopted ordinances to establish and join the York Area Regional Sewer Authority.

The creation of the authority doesn’t obligate the authority or any of the municipalities to buy the wastewater treatment plant, said Steven M. Hovis, solicitor for North York, at the borough's Sept. 15 public hearing on the ordinance.

"This is just the initial step that gets you in a position to approach the city and start having that discussion," Hovis said.

The regional authority is a response to York City sending out a request for proposals with the intention of selling the wastewater treatment plant, which Hovis said could lead to rate increases for customers and would remove local control.

The City of York's wastewater treatment plant.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
John A. Pavoncello photo

If the plan doesn't pan out and the new authority doesn't acquire the wastewater treatment plant, Hovis said, the authority could simply be dissolved.

Philip Given, chief of staff for York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, declined to comment Monday on the regional authority, citing the outstanding proposal request.

Helfrich has said he would be open to hearing from the participating municipalities that want to buy the plant, but he said the point of selling the plant is to monetize it, so they would have to pay.

West Manchester Township Manager Kelly Kelch said the most important thing to residents is local autonomy and stabilization of sewer rates.

Kelch said the authority has reached out to the mayor's office to discuss how to move forward to acquire the plant.

"We are eagerly awaiting them (the city) to contact us to we can begin that dialogue to talk about a possible transfer," Kelch said. "The timeline almost depends on the city at this point."

City officials have said they don't know what the plant is worth, so they're waiting to see what bidders are willing to pay based on the RFP.

Each of the five municipalities will have a representative on the authority board, Kelch said, and York City will be invited to appoint its own representative if the authority acquires the plant.

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