How will that affect my water bill? Wrightsville officials consider plan for selling assets

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Eric White, who sought reelection on the Wrightsville Borough Council in Tuesday's election, said he wasn't yet sure if he held his seat, during Board of Elections meeting at the York County Commissioner Chambers
Friday, November 8, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Wrightsville residents packed the John Wright Restaurant on Wednesday night — all with similar questions on their minds.

If Wrightsville sells its water and sewer assets to help eliminate debt — how will that affect rates, bills and local control? 

As Wrightsville Council President Eric White sees it, there's no future in the water and sewer business, he said.

"It's not a good business to be in for a municipality," White told the crowd of about 50, adding that the increasing debt charges for Wrightsville residents and property owners are becoming too costly for some. 

New regulations from the state Department of Environmental Protection forced the Wrightsville Municipal Authority — which is a separate entity from the borough — to turn to a bond and a loan to make a $5.2 million upgrade in 2011.

Wrightsville residents and property owners gather at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the John Wrights Restaurant to discuss the potential selling of the borough's water and sewer assets. Tina Locurto photo.

As a result, the authority added a $26.43 debt service charge to customers' monthly bills. Then in 2019, the authority took out an additional $3 million loan to cover the cost for multiple projects, including the replacement of the Hellam Street water main, White said.

This added another $9 on top of the $26.43.

"For me personally, it's a little frustrating because for the past three years this is exactly what I've been doing, is asking the municipal authority, 'Do you have a plan? Is there a plan to lower people's bills?" White said. "Nobody's come up with a plan. Nobody even got back to me with an idea."

So White took matters into his own hands.

Wednesday's informational meeting gave White the chance to tell Wrightsville's residents and property owners the situation — and to offer solutions.

Several audience members lobbed questions and concerns at White. That included Wrightsville property owner Art Mann, who questioned how well-run the Wrightsville Municipal Authority is now.

"What I would think for the community to look at is, does this community really want to run a water company?" Mann said. "And can the local authority keep up with the latest technology?"

Also in attendance was York Water Co. CEO and President JT Hand. 

Hand, who applauded residents for turning out to learn the process of asset acquisition, said the York Water Co. already has an existing relationship with the authority.

York Water Co. and Wrightsville Municipal Authority entered into a contract to establish an emergency interconnect, a secondary source to provide utilities to the borough in the event of an emergency, Hand said.

"You don't often see this level of transparency, so many of these deals can be transacted behind closed doors, and you don't  hear about it before it's too late," Hand said. "I know in your head there's a little bit of concern."

White outlined a hypothetical situation in which the York Water Co. purchased the Wrightsville water and sewer assets, estimating customers could potentially save up to 35% on their monthly bills.

Comparing his own monthly bill in March, which totaled $112.25, White said a hypothetical total equivalent bill would come out to only $72.78.

He added that the economy of scale and the York Water Co.'s large customer base allows it to spread out repairs and upgrades, making the new bill total lower.

"So we start to see how sometimes it's not a bad thing to be part of a larger system," White said.

The Wrightsville Borough Council passed a resolution last month ordering the authority to begin looking into the potential sale of the water and sewer assets.

White previously said he hoped Wednesday's meeting helps officials determine the best way forward. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.