OP-ED: There's nothing 'illegal' about discussing sale to sewer authority, Mayor Helfrich

Kelly Kelch
York Area Regional Sewer Authority
The City of York's wastewater treatment plant.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
John A. Pavoncello photo

In response to the Thursday's story in The York Dispatch, “Citing legal reasons, York City refuses to meet with local sewer authority,” it is important for the York Area Regional Sewer Authority to clarify the few points.

While there may be legal reasons why York City officials cannot allow the authority to enter the current RFP process, they are not obligated to move forward after the bids are in. Therefore, a meeting with the authority to understand an alternative path for consideration is all that is being asked and is not an illegal request, especially if that alternative path better serves our citizens.

The authority requested the option to purchase the wastewater treatment plant prior to the city's RFP deadline. This request was denied, which is why the authority did not submit a proposal and the option to partner with another organization was not conveyed.

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Per the Sept. 21 story in The York Dispatch, “Five Municipalities say ‘yes’ to regional sewer authority, want deal with York City,” Mayor Michael Helfrich mentioned he was open to hearing from the authority. It is important to note, this date was after the initial RFP deadline of Aug. 6 had passed.

While the window to resubmit was reopened and ended on Oct.12, during this time, the authority was never approached about submitting a bid. All other bidders received an invitation to bid and RFPs were sent to them.

Had the authority known the window was to be reopened, the authority would have notified the city that it was unable to comply and request the ability to offer an alternative bid for the treatment plant only at that time.

An investor-owned purchase will not provide the city with the funds to pay for its existing 2021 financial obligations, whereas a purchase by the authority of the wastewater treatment plant could provide these necessary funds, potentially within 90 days. 

If the city is interested in doing what is best for its residents and neighboring municipalities, selling the wastewater treatment plant to the York Area Regional Sewer Authority is in the best interest of the community. It would maintain local control and keep rates low. All the authority is requesting is a meeting once the bids have been reviewed to help the city understand an alternative path.

— Kelch is manager of West Manchester Township and spokesperson for York Area Regional Sewer Authority, which includes Manchester, West Manchester, Spring Garden and York townships and North York borough.