Water Industry News

Richland PA board arms against 122% water rate increase

Of The Morning Call

Calling it ''unconscionable,'' Richland Township supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to fight what they believe to be Quakertown's plan to raise water rates twice as much for township customers as borough customers.

According to Supervisor Chairman Rick Orloff, Quakertown will ask the Public Utility Commission for a 122 percent increase for its 1,000 Richland customers, and for only a 60 percent increase for borough customers.

''I don't see how it costs more to deliver water to Richland customers than their own,'' he said.

The board authorized Township Manager Stephen Sechriest to take whatever steps necessary to advocate for the rights of township residents, including hiring a certified public accountant and an engineer to examine Quakertown records and the hiring of a PUC attorney to represent the township.

''They will have to justify any difference in a rate increase,'' Supervisor Steve Tamburri said.

Quakertown Borough Manager Dave Woglom said the whole thing is a misunderstanding, one he tried to explain in a recent letter to Richland officials.

''The borough's plan has always been for the same percentage increase for in-town and out-of-town customers,'' said Woglom, who was not at Monday's meeting.

The borough, he said, has an application before the PUC asking for a 122 percent rate increase for Richland customers.

''The application applies only to our PUC-regulated customers,'' Woglom said. ''Our in-town customers are not PUC-regulated.''

The rate increase for Quakertown customers, he said, will be determined by borough council after the PUC rules on the rate increase for Richland customers.

The confusion may have arisen from a November 2003 Quakertown meeting in which a $14.2 million budget for 2004 was unveiled. At the meeting, Woglom said the water rate could go up 60 percent for borough residents.

At a meeting on Aug. 23, Woglom said: '' that could change, we won't know the answer for months.''

Also at the meeting, County Builders gave details of a proposed 504-unit age-restricted development at Old Bethlehem Pike and Tollgate Road during a public hearing.

According to Kenneth Amey, the land planner for the project, the average cost per unit is projected at $215,000 and he expects 1.7 residents per unit, for a total of about 856 people.

The development would bring an estimated $1.7 million to the Quakertown Community School District, Amey said, but since children are not permitted, there will be no cost to the school district.

''It's hard to say the number who will pay an earned income tax'' to the township, he said, but estimated it to be about 35 percent.

According to Scott McMackin, planning engineer for the project, the 63-acre development meets all zoning requirements.



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