By Nancy Johnson
Penn Township supervisors opened the bids for the township's wastewater treatment system at its meeting on July 10.
"This is just a sewer bid opening," explained Curtis Mason, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "It doesn't mean we will accept it. It just means we will open the bids and turn them over to our attorneys and engineers."
For months, Penn Township had advertised its intention to sell the wastewater treatment system and assets associated with it. Yet only two bids were received. Mason opened the first bid and announced that it was from Pennsylvania American Water Company, with a bid price of $3,250,000. The second bid was submitted by Little Washington, a subsidiary of Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc., with a price of $2,263,000.
Mason noted that there are a lot of specifications in each of the bids, which is the reason they are immediately handed over to township attorney Sam McMichael.
Mason also addressed the 5,000 recent telephone robocalls and letters about the potential sale of the sewer system that were directed at township residents by an outside party.
"They have an agenda," Mason said. "They want it to be unionized."
Mason said that while the letters and calls compared Penn Township's wastewater treatment system to that of Coatesville, the two situations are different. For example, Coatesville's system has approximately 6,000 customers, as compared to Penn's 600.
Mason gave the audience a brief history of the township's sewer system. The township bought the system from the Jennersville Regional Hospital (then the Southern Chester County Medical Center) and made major improvements to it.
"We knew we had to have a sewer system for businesses like the hospital, the YMCA and senior communities to succeed in Penn Township," Mason said. "The plan was always to build the infrastructure and then get out of it."
Due to a number of unfunded mandates, the system is beginning to cost the township a lot of money, and it will only cost more in the future. Supervisor Bill Finnen said, "We have to come up with $2 million to fix the first phase [of mandates], and the second phase will be about $5 million."
Mason and his fellow supervisors fielded numerous questions and comments from residents who packed the township's meeting room.
One resident, Frank Jury, expressed his concern that information about the board's intention to sell the sewer system was not more readily available. "You should update your website with a blog of the goings-on in Penn Township. You need a better means of communication," Jury said.
Frank Grosso, also a resident, said, "Rumors get started. That's why this room is filled tonight. The deal is going to go through, no matter who sits in [the chairman's] chair."
"It's something we have to do, but we have to do it right," Mason said. "The township will still have a lot of control because we control the 537 Plan. We do not intend to extend the sewer beyond where it is now." The system now stops at the Route 1 bypass.