OP-ED: Why won't the city meet with the York Area Regional Sewer Authority?

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

The City of York administration is poised to recommend to City Council and the York City Sewer Authority that they approve the sale of its sewer system. This is in response to four bids that were received on Dec. 9. Prior to submission of these bids, the York Area Regional Sewer Authority, an authority created by five local municipalities that currently rely upon the City’s wastewater treatment plant for treatment of its sewage, requested the opportunity to speak with the City about an alternate sale concept. That concept would allow the City to maintain ownership of its collection system and sell the treatment plant to a locally controlled public authority. The Authority believes this alternative to be a win-win for all parties.

The Mayor has stated that the City has been advised (we assume by counsel representing the City as part of the RFP) that it would be illegal to even talk with the Authority about such a sale. That is absolutely false. First, the RFP allows the City to reject any and all bids. They have no contractual relationship with any of the bidders. Second, as a publicly created authority, the City is authorized to sell its assets to any public entity without going through a bid process. Therefore, the sale to the Authority is an alternative option worth legally pursuing. 

The RFP originally provided for bids to be submitted for all of the sewer system or just the collection system or wastewater treatment plant. The most recent RFP only provided for sale of the collection system and treatment plant. The Authority requested that the RFP be amended to allow alternate bids as originally proposed. This is an option that is clearly in the best financial interest of the City that costs nothing to pursue. The Authority was informed by counsel that alternate bids would not be permitted as part of the bid process. That response immediately eliminated the Authority from any participation in the sale process.

Why is the City refusing to meet with the Authority or permit alternate bids when it appears to be in the best interest of the residents of the City of York to at least consider this opportunity? Repeatedly it returns to who is advising the City on this transaction. With the sale of an asset of this magnitude, full disclosure is paramount. Counsel hired by the City will receive a substantial commission from this sale. Be it $10,000 or $2,000,000 (we believe it to be closer to the latter), the residents of the City deserve to know how much it is and how it impacted this transaction. Why Won’t the City Meet with The Authority? The residents of the City need and deserve to know.

For more information about the York Area Regional Sewer Authority, visit

— Timothy R. James is the chair of the York Area Regional Sewer Authority.