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Township signs resolution opposing proposed water authority sale

09/26/2017 12:38PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Kennett Township joined the voices of opposition to the proposed sale of the Chester Water Authority to Aqua of America by adopting a resolution at the Sept. 20 Board of Supervisors meeting that requests that the CWA board "protect" the residents and businesses that the Chester-based water company currently serves.
The resolution stated that "Kennett Township requests that the Chester Water Authority Board not sell its customers and assets to a for-profit company," and that the Board "continue to protect our township residents and businesses by putting the interests of the taxpayers first when making decisions about the Authority's operations and future."
The resolution was signed by Board Chairman Scudder Stevens and Co-Chair Whitney Hoffman. Supervisor Dr. Richard Leff was not present at the meeting.
Joe DiMarco, a Chichester resident in opposition of the sale, was in attendance at the meeting with two representatives from the Chester Water Authority. He applauded the passage of the resolution and said that he and his colleagues have been attending similar meetings throughout Chester and Delaware counties in recent weeks, in order to generate a groundswell of community-wide rejection of the proposed sale, which began on May 8, when the CWA board received an unsolicited offer from Aqua to purchase CWA's customers and assets for $320 million.
In its offer letter, Aqua invited the CWA board to decide for itself how it would want to distribute the proceeds from the sale among the City of Chester, Delaware County and Chester County -- the three counties who have a representation of three members each on the nine-member CWA board. Although the CWA board rejected the offer by a vote of 9-0 on May 18, all of the current board members' terms expire at the end of 2017 -- there are no staggered terms on the board -- which leads to wide speculation that a newly-named board could change the vote and agree to sell off CWA's assets.
"The problem is that the CWA board all serve the same period and they all walk off the board at the same time, and those three entities all have the responsibility to name new board members, and now the concern becomes, 'Who does [Chester County, Delaware County and the City of Chester] name as its representatives?'" Board Chairman Scudder Stevens said. "If they all name people who want to sell to Aqua, we're whistling Dixie. If they all name entities who don't want to sell to Aqua, then other municipalities have an impact on what happens. We don't have any direct say, so that's the underlying message that this resolution is trying to address."
[Note: At their work session last week, the Chester County Commissioners -- Commissioner Terence Farrell, Commissioners' Chairwoman Michelle Kichline and Vice Chairwoman Kathi Cozzone -- endorsed the decision made earlier this year by the Chester Water Authority not to sell its system.]
The township's resolution is just a small part of a momentum of local opposition to the proposed sale. Township Manager Lisa Moore said that she has received calls from several municipalities, who have either adopted -- or are about to adopt -- resolutions similar to the township's.
In other township business, the supervisors gave approval to the township to enter into negotiations to purchase a 103-acre plot of private property in the township for $3.1 million, for the purpose of converting it to open space. Because the sale of the property is still in negotiation, its location has not been made public. The purchase of the property is being done in partnership with the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County and the township's Land Conservation Advisory Committee.
Moore gave an update about the revitalization of the historic Fussell House that the township purchased nearly two years ago. She said that the immediate plan for the home is to stabilize its exterior, which will include the addition of new windows, doors, and a new front porch, roof and HVAC system.
The project, estimated at $330,000, will be put out to bid shortly, and is projected to be completed by the end of the year. After that project is complete, attention will be given to stabilizing the interior of the home. Since its purchase, the house has been discussed as a possible site for future township use.
The township staff and supervisors joined with staff from the Kennett Square Borough and representatives from several area organizations last week, in a tabletop session with the staff of the Chester County Emergency Services that directed participants through a delegation of duties during a mock tornado scenario in the community. The exercise gave detailed instructions of how to manage emergency operations during a tornado event.
It was the latest in a continuing series of emergency scenario workshops the township holds with County Emergency Services. Past workshops have included scenarios related to a train derailment, a sniper/terrorist at a major local festival, and a hostage takeover at a major Kennett Square company.
"From my perspective, as chairman of this board, we have a responsibility," said Stevens. "We're citizens but we're more than that. We have to determine what our responsibilities are, and what we do in the event they occur. My job is to help with communication and coordinate with the different organizations, and the only way we learn this is by doing these exercises."
Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt announced that the department has been awarded a pedestrian safety grant, to be applied next spring, that will provide funding for the department to conduct safety and enforcement education with residents about pedestrian exchanges at crosswalks and intersections.
Moore said that the township's Emergency Management Services' Commission held their first meeting recently, in conjunction with six municipalities and three fire companies. The Commission's meetings will be held on the first Thursday of the month at the Kennett Township Building.
Moore announced that park benches have been added to Barkingfield Park, and the Kennett Fire Company has donated another bench, complimenting the recent addition of a pavilion. A free lending library has also been installed at the park. 
There will be a fall festival at the park on Oct. 8 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and will include hayrides, childrens' games, and tours of local fire and police vehicles.
The board also passed a resolution recognizing the late Anthony "Tony T" Talamonti, expressing the township's gratitude for his long-time work in the community; in particular, his contributions to the Kennett Fire Company. Talamonti died on Aug. 26 at the age of 72.
"He was a very, very important and influential person over a great number of years, and was a significant player in the development and management and growth of the Kennett Fire Company," Stevens said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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