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Chester County Press

Sale of New Garden Sewer System Expected to be Finalized in November

07/21/2020 06:06PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

In August of 2016, the New Garden Township Sewer Authority and Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc. (Aqua) entered into an agreement to purchase the township’s sewage system for $29.5 million. On June 29, 2017, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved Aqua’s application.

After four years of negotiations, legal snags, lawsuits and other delays that have involved the township, the PUC, the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Commonwealth Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the long road to finalizing the agreement is finally in the township’s sights.

In comments made during the township’s July 20 online Board of Supervisors meeting, William Christman, an attorney with the firm of Lamb McErlane, said that the sale of the township’s sewer system is expected to be reached in the fourth quarter of 2020 – mid-November, he estimated.

The delay reached its peak in Oct. 2018, when the PUC's Office of Consumer Advocate sued the PUC in Commonwealth Court, claiming that the sale of the township sewer system would lead to a severe escalation of rates among Aqua customers not only in New Garden but across Pennsylvania.

Subsequently, the township sent a notice to all wastewater system rate payers in the township that signified that the long journey to finalize the sale was coming to a close. On Feb. 21, 2018 the notice stated, Aqua filed the proposed final settlement with the PUC for the completion of the sale, pending final approval from Hon. Administrative Law Judge Steven K. Haas and the PUC.

The last hurdle in the final approval of the sale was to allow for parties who were opposed to the transaction the opportunity to submit written comments to the PUC before April 8, 2020, which were to be reviewed by the PUC before the sale could become final.

“It is my understanding that [the PUC] did not receive sufficient comments to warrant a hearing,” Christman said, “and any comments they did receive were of the nature that [Judge Haas] will likely send a recommended decision approving the sale, and that the Office of Consumer Advocate is in agreement and will not be standing in the way any longer.”

Jake Brakes

In other township business, township manager Ramsey Reiner introduced an ordinance which if passed will place regulation on the use of Jake brakes by large trucks on major roadways through the township, particularly along Route 41 and Newark Road.

Jake brakes are a supplementary engine-braking system used to complement the conventional brakes on a large truck that allows drivers to reduce the wear and tear on the vehicle by using the compression of the engine to slow the truck down.

In recent years, Jake brakes have been the brunt of criticism by residents who live in areas where truck traffic is frequent, largely because of the machine-gun-like sound that they make when they are used. New Garden Township is not the only Pennsylvania municipality to address excessive truck noise along its most well-traveled routes; in 2015, Elizabethtown Borough in Lancaster County passed an ordinance regulating Jake Brake activity on some of its local roads.

Reiner said that before an ordinance of this kind is passed, it will require traffic studies and some coordination with PennDOT that will help to designate the roads where this ordinance could be enforced.

“It is not an easy process to go through, but it can be beneficial, particularly when there are residences near high traffic areas,” Christman said. “Because this is regulated solely by PennDOT, there is an application process that is required in order to do a brake retarder prohibition or reduction. A lot of it has to do with speed limits on the roads and whether there have been any truck crashes over the past three to five years.”

Christman said that if passed, the ordinance would be monitored and enforced by the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department.

Reiner also introduced two more potential ordinances. One, if passed, will call on township residents to regulate and maintain the evasive bamboo plant on their properties. She said that she was led to pursue the ordinance after the township received several complaints that the species of plant was overtaking yards and has not been properly maintained.

Township resident Peter Bloxham told the board that he supports the proposed ordinance, given his decade-long difficulty to regulate the excessive growth of bamboo on his neighbors’ yards from encroaching on his property.

Calling it “an important endeavor to take care of and start working on” and a “safety net for landlords and tenants,” Reiner introduced an ordinance that if passed would provide regulatory measures on rental properties in the township. Specifically, it would impose requirements regarding code compliance and safety.

Supervisor Steve Allaband agreed with the ordinance initiative.

“I think it has to evolve,” he said. “I don’t think we can go in and start closing things down. There have to be standards and goals met as we work towards it, but absolutely, there are some horrendous living conditions in New Garden Township that need to be addressed, and we need to have the ordinance there to do it.”

The board also approved an agreement between the SouthernChester County Regional Police Department and the Newark Police Department to use the New Garden Township firing range, located near the New Garden Flying Field.

In addition, Kati Parlier was named as the township’s grant coordinator.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].