Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hazleton City Authority Members Want To Stop Sale

Phil Andras

In today's Standard Speaker the members of the Hazleton City Authority attack Mayor Lou Barletta over his plan to sell the water department of the authority. .

The allegations by the board members speaks to their parochial, provincial, and partisan position with regards to what is right for the citizens of Hazleton of which their oath demands allegiance. It also points to persons where their fields of education lack the proper training to be part of the management of a $68 million water distribution asset. The cliche is circling the wagons to foster and unleash a typical, opposition attack found in any political can on the shelf of distraction.

Water authority wants to stop sale
Published: December 31, 2009

Ammon said 40 percent of HCA customers live outside Hazleton. HCA has customers in Hazle Township, West Hazleton, Banks Township, Beaver Meadows, Packer Township, Lausanne Township, Foster Township, Jeddo Borough, Mahanoy, Black Creek, Sugarloaf, Delano and Butler townships.

Those ratepayers, authority Chairman Phil Andras said, built the authority, which today has about $68 million in assets. Andras said in that respect, the authority is owned by its customers, who each have $4,000 to $5,000 invested in it.

Mr. Andras is principal at the Shennandoah Junior-Senior High School. Do they have business courses as part of the curriculum? If you believe Mr. Andras's statement then all of us must own part of PPL, ATT, UGI, and the cable company.

The ratepayers are customers of the water department. They buy its product and service. They did not "invest" in the authority no more than any customer of PPL who purchases power or UGI that purchases gas.

It took 71 years to build the authority and it could take 30 seconds on a vote to end it," Ammon said. Authority members believe the sale of the authority to a private company will eventually lead to higher customer rates.

The water department existed long before the Hazleton City Authority. The Municipal Authorities Act was passed in 1935. There was water long before 1935 in Hazleton. Who created that infrastructure and managed it? The City of Hazleton. It turned its assets over to the Authority.

A google search turned up this information from the Department Reports of Pennsylvania. The Wyoming Valley Water Supply company , a subsidiary of Lehigh Valley Coal Co, was providing water service in the City of Hazleton.

A little bit of history for the principal.

The Diamond water works were erected in 1887. Already the demands require that they double their capacity, and at this time (June, 1892) work has commenced enlarging their reservoir. The Hazleton Gas Company was incorporated March 14, 1872. Commissioners named in the act: C. Pardee, W.A.M. Grier, Sylvester Engle, R.F. Russell, John Bond and James James. Board of directors: president, C. Pardee; secretary and treasurer, W.A.M. Grier. The works were built in 1872 and gas furnished customers in November of that year.

In the Fourth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Health of the Commonweatlh of Pennsylvania the report indicates water supplied to the City of Hazleton came from the Hazleton Water Company found on page 731 and 732.

On page 725 of that report one will find the following information. The Hazleton Water Company was chartered January 8, 1875 and the Diamond Water Supply Company was incorporated June 24, 1887.

It appears the Hazleton Water Company operated as part of the authority after the Hazleton City Authority was formed in 1938.

To the claims of water rates increasing when a municipality sells it water division look at this article from October, 2009.

Water rates to fall in wake of Saxonburg system sale

The Saxonburg Area Authority completed a $6 million sale of its water business to Pennsylvania American Water on Wednesday.

The sale will result in an 18 percent rate reduction for nearly three-fourths of the authority's former 1,100 customers in the borough andparts of Jefferson and Clinton townships, said authority Manager Paul Cornetti.

Back to the Standard Speaker article.

Mundie said when Atlanta, Ga., sold its water company for $420 million to a private company in Jan. 1, 1999, it found more problems with service. He said dirty water and non-functioning service created great disastifaction with ratepayers.

To Hazleton City Councilman Mundie's claims of poor water quality which are nothing more that boilerplate rhetoric found in the political arena of defense. The following information is contained in the 2008 LACKAWANNA & LUZERNE COUNTY REGIONAL FACT BOOK:

Pennsylvania-American Water Company (PAWC) is northeastern Pennsylvania’s single water utility. PAWC is the state’s largest regulated water utility and serves more than two million people in 372 Pennsylvania communities. Pennsylvania-American Water is a division of RWE AG, a German company. PAWC has 38 water treatment facilities, three wastewater facilities, and about 8,900 miles of pipeline to service its

While PAWC is the leading water utility for Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and surrounding areas, Hazelton actually receives its water supply from the Hazelton City Authority. The Authority employs American Water Services, Inc. to lend its water industry professionals. These trained water experts help to treat, distribute, and manage water resources in the City of Hazelton.

Mr. Mundie, how much training do the Board Members receive that would qualify being called "experts" when compared to a company that serves over 2 million customers in 372 Pennsylvania communities?

This information about Pennsylvania American Water can be found on its website.

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PA PUC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) sets rules and we carefully follow them. Those regulations are what help to ensure everyone is receiving quality water and wastewater service at a fair price. All changes and increases to service rates are directly related to the cost of providing high quality service and are subjected to a public review process and approval by the PUC.

Pennsylvania American Water follows strict regulations created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) regulations help provide high quality drinking water. Because we are privileged to work in cooperation with the USEPA to help in the development of national drinking water standards, we are often years ahead of the industry in implementing regulations.

Pennsylvania American Water is committed to delivering high quality water to all of our customers in Pennsylvania. We conduct about 200,000 tests per year for about 100 potential contaminants, checking drinking water quality at every stage of the water treatment and delivery process.

We are also a voluntary member of the Partnership for Safe Water, and have received 28 Directors Awards statewide for providing water to our customers that surpasses what is required by drinking water standards.

Talk about poor quality of water distribution read this comment. PA: Water System Upgrades

For the last 10 years, 40,000 residents of Hazleton, Pa., periodically have been without sufficient quantities of clean drinking water, or without water service at all, due to aging water mains.

As the Mayor tries to clean up the acid mine drainage into the Jeddo Tunnel with the Hazleton Creek project this tidbit speaks to authority members' concerns about contamination. 1973- The Hazleton City authority decides to use the Jeddo Tunnel as a source of water providing that the state provides 75 % of the project's $8-$10 million dollar cost.

Finally, let's address the good principal's comment regarding working with the City. Andras said the authority is willing to help the city out as it has in the past. He suggested possibly entering into a renewable energy program that could benefit the authority and the city. Mr. Andras also made the commment about being a "no-brainer". Well here is a prime example of no brains.

The Hazleton City Authority has been engaged in trying to execute a windmill project for several years.

Windmill Project Would Save Hazleton City Authority $400K
STAFF WRITER. Hazleton Standard-Speaker
Published: Saturday, January 31, 2009 4:13 AM EST

A windmill project boosted this week by a $300,000 state grant would save the Hazleton City Authority water department almost $400,000 in energy costs over two decades.

It would be the first project in Pennsylvania in which the power generated would be dedicated to a public entity and not sold to the power grid.

Community Energy has received a $300,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Harvest Grant Program, to supplement a previous $200,000 state grant for the design and installation of a single, 600-kilowatt wind turbine on HCA land along Route 424.

Oh..this project sounds so fantastic one wants to prematurely pop the bubbly before tonight's ball drop. But hold one.

In a letter to John Hanger, Acting Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection from Senator Mary Jo White, Chairman of the Senate Evironmental Resources and Energy Committee dated March 18, 2009 she asks the following question of Mr. Hanger.

Dear Acting Secretary Hanger:

I am writing to request additional information regarding several grants approved by your Department.

On January 29th, the Governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced a $300,000 Energy Harvest grant to Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (Pennfuture). The announcement states that the grant is to supplement a previous grant for the design and installation of a wind turbine at the Hazleton (Luzerne County) Authority Water Department. The previous grant awarded by DEP for the same project was a $200,000 grant awarded in November 2005. Ostensibly, the justification for the second grant award was because costs for the purchase and installation of a wind turbine had significantly increased in the previous two years.

I would appreciate your response to the following questions:

1) As head of Pennfuture, you were the signatory on the $300,000 application to DEP, dated June 18, 2008. Given the fact that the DEP Secretary has final departmental decision-making as to which applications are funded, what if any steps did the Administration take to ensure that this application was reviewed by someone outside of DEP’s chain of command? If so, who?

2) Community Energy, Inc., a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, is to acquire the wind project and serve as the project operator. That being the case, what is the rationale for a third-party, non-profit organization such as Pennfuture to serve as the funding applicant? Why is it not more appropriate for either Community Energy, Inc. or the Hazleton Authority Water Department to serve as the funding applicant?

3) As part of its 2005 grant application, Pennfuture requested $50,000 for “salaries and benefits”. How much of the 2005 grant of $200,000 was retained by Pennfuture for salaries, benefits or any other administrative costs?

4) How much of the 2009 grant for $300,000 is to be retained by Pennfuture for salaries, benefits or any other administrative costs?

5) Has the Department awarded supplemental grants – which exceeded the size of the original grant – to other organizations to cover high-than-anticipated project costs? If so, please provide examples.

6) A primary focus of Energy Harvest is to leverage public dollars to spur private investment. For example, the January 29, 2009 press release noted that over five years Energy Harvest has awarded nearly $33.5 million while leveraging nearly $110 million in private investments.

However, my understanding is that this project is to receive nearly $700,000 in public or ratepayer assistance ($500,000 Energy Harvest; $192,000 Sustainable Development Fund production credits), with projected benefits to ratepayers of only $393,000 (over 20 years) to customers of the Hazleton Authority Water Department (essentially paying $393,000 less for wind power from the installed wind turbine compared with wind energy rates from PPL).

How is spending near $700,000 to save $393,000 over 20 years a positive investment of public dollars?

Basically the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are giving the Hazleton City Authority $692,000.00 so that it can invest it and earn only $393,000 back in 20 years. The exact definition of no brains. The Commonwealth should just give HCA $393,000 so it can keep the other $299,000.00. Mr. Andras must go to Paul Kanjorski's school of "FREE MONEY".

Couple that devastating consequence with the fact previously written that the Board must increase its underfunding of the pension to the tune of $84,000 for several years this Board is definitely demonstrating an acute business acumen to lose vasts amounts of money.

How much does the Board get paid between meetings, trips, and seminars? The Board of the Hazleton City Authority has alot to answer for when it decided that its personal interests supercede the interests of the citizens whom they represent.

To Ms. Cuozzo's comment that appears on the website of the Standard Speaker article this court case will factually prove that her statements are incorrect.

The basic question is, however, does the Township have the authority under the law and the contract documents (the Trust Indenture and Lease) to order the Authority it created to dissolve itself.

Section 14 and Section 18A of the Act (Sections 14 and 18A) govern the termination of the Authority. Section 14 has been held to authorize the Township, as the creating municipality, to take over the Project pursuant to Section 18A after the impediments of Section 14 in the form of agreements, claims and outstanding debt obligations (the Bonds) are discharged. Forward Twp. Sanitary Sewage Authority v. Twp. of Forward, 654 A.2d 170 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995).4 Section 18A authorizes the Township to acquire a project after assuming all obligations related thereto. The Township created the Authority and, under Section 18(A) of the Act, it has the power, without the consent of the Authority, to order the Authority to comply with the Township’s Resolutions to pay off all Bonds and debt, convey all of its assets and dissolve the Authority.

To all those attending the Virginia Tech vs. Tennesse game tonight at the Georgia Dome, please don't drink the water. Word is it is unsafe.


Chris Paige said...

Assuming the City intends to take the proceeds of the HCA's sale of the water authority, then it needs the approval of 75% of the other municipalities the HCA serves, according to PA 53 PS 3102.302. Since that law was passed AFTER the case you cite, that case - and most of the other precedent on this subject - are either obsolete or inapplicable to these facts. At the very least, these issues are likely to be resolved in the courts, which means considerable expense and delay.

McGruff said...

Like I said a Rhino.

McGruff said...

See you just don't get it. Since you are a newcomer to Pennsylvania let's get you up to speed. You already lost the election but you need to be set straight.

The reason Hazleton is in its jam is not related to mismanagement of funds. When you look at the budget in its entirety the fixed costs are pretty much to the bare bones.

For the past thirty or so years Hazleton has been limited by the Pennsylvania legislature as a third class city to 25 mills property tax. There is an additional five mills that can and must be approved by a court.

As employee, utility, building maintenance, healthcare and a whole host of other costs go up the intersection of income and expense invariably cross a line.

You can argue that police must be cut. However with the gang situation in Hazleton that would be a foolish move. You might as well concede the city to the gangs. You can argue more police weren't needed in the first place. I don't know that you would find much support for that position among the electorate.

Same can be said with respect to fire.

The streets are already in a dire strait due to lack of funds for repair. There will be layoffs in the highway department which will only make matters worse.

Finally, Todd Eachus and Paul Kanjorski have put the clamps on any funds coming into Hazleton as part of a strategy to ignite fire against the Mayor. They can't beat him politically so they are resorting to choking off the city in the hopes it will bring it and the Mayor to his knees.

I know you are going to say Kanjorski beat Barletta. Overall, yes but not in Hazleton or Luzerne County. People around here know what that using his office to injure Hazletonians is a wrong way to get even.

Only with reassessment is Hazleton able to raise property taxes. It is not something that anyone wants to do but if it isn't done due to the fixed costs then more jobs will be lost. In these economic times that is a hard pill for anyone to swallow.

However, your adversarial position will not let you speak what is true, only what you want people to believe. People around here are smarter than that. Good luck with your strategy. So far it hasn't made it out of the garage.

McGruff said...

If it wasn't for Senator Ray Musto and Governor Rendell the funds that did make it to Hazleton would never be there.

McGruff said...

If Eachus is charged in Bonusgate that will be a great day for Hazleteon. It will mean that finally a person who truly wants to represent Hazleton rather than choke it will fight for what is right. Funding some of the projects that have been waiting like a maiden waiting for her knight will become a reality.

Until then Eachus's ego prevents him from laying down his political full court press and downright assault on Hazleton due to his personal dislike for Barletta.

Eachus has hurt many people in the name of his rise to power, people in his district that supported him financially. If he fought for Hazleton like he fought for Robert Powell Hazleton would be a much better place. Hazleton would love to have the $250 million he went to battle for in the quest of the fantasy cargo airport.

Let's see, Eachus worked with Robert Powell, Greg Skrepenak, Mike Veon, Bill DeWeese, Rachel Manzo, ohh the list goes on.

What I don't understand about you is that you were a staunch Democrat. If you didn't like their policy why didn't you run against Kanjo as a Democrat. Instead you are running against Barletta, a very well liked and admired person in the Republican party. You are taking swipes and jabs when the real person you will be running against is Kanjo. Hence the foundation for my claim that you are a Rhino.

McGruff said...

As I tried to tell your buddy DP I am in no one's employment. You gave yourself away with 3102.302. It is hard for you guys to believe that I don't work for someone,have never, and never will...unlike all of you who do work for someone else..giddy up...shill...nope..wrong..nada..ain't happenin...

Both of you are telling me more about urselves than about me. I warned DP that I can see when he logs in...he didn't heed my warning.You came back at 10:13:21 and he visited 9:53:57PM.

Keep up the attacks..I could care less..What I do care about is my city...BTW DP is it true that you said "They are f..king around with my career"..Ask your boss whether he screwed around with mine...and no Chris I am not who you think I am...and DP...nope not ur pick either..

McGruff said...

Chris...did u pay attention to the comments on the TL article about ur friends raising taxes in LuzerneC County!!


I can't believe the gall of these two comiisioners to even think about raising taxes after what we just went through this past year, where do you think we as a taxpayer are going to get more money from now!!!! You really must be joking, you actually think that people are going to shell out more money, start cuting, I mean really to the bare bones, again the hard working taxpayer is getting the brunt,Mr. Urban I thank you for again for standing up and being our voice and the other two, well I don't know how you could sleep at night knowing that you will be responsible for people losing their homes,the very same people that have been supporting this county for years, while other people sit home all day and get hand outs, that's all you are going to have left here in the end and then who will be here to tax, NObody

Glad I got out said...

This is outrageous! Steve Urban is the only commissioner who understands the plight of the taxpayers. They can't put out another dime! Electric bills going up 30% as of today, gas prices rising again, no cost of living raises, etc., and Petrilla with Cooney want to raise the property taxes? Where's Mohegan Sun's help for property owners? The taxpayers were supposed to see a REDUCTION in their taxes. Skrep did his dirty deals, but Petrilla and Cooney will bury Luzerne County. The senior citizens are doing without now, a tax hike will leave them with nothing. Charles Hatchko made a good point, time for Luzerne County to file bankruptcy

Social Security Recipients get no Cost of Living Adjustment for 2010 because inflation is at or near 0. Yet, the Democrats in Luzerne County Happily raise Taxes by 10%. Keep pulling that Lever Seniors, the Democrats are really taking care of you. Or is it, taking advantage of You? Ye Fools.

Larry said...

I held back on deciding whether I liked Cooney or not. I have seen enough to feel he is just another Luzerne County political hack who was appointed by the powers that be to do their dirty work. So much for a fresh new start.

Larry said...

I held back on deciding whether I liked Cooney or not. I have seen enough to feel he is just another Luzerne County political hack who was appointed by the powers that be to do their dirty work. So much for a fresh new start.

January 1, 2010 at 8:03 AM

mlh said...

How about we fire the people that are stealing our tax money instead of raising taxes!

January 1, 2010 at 8:46 AM

Ralph said...

Steve Urban understands,so does Mr.Cooney.Commissioner Petrilla should smell the coffee and wake up.Politics are over.

January 1, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Larry H. said...

We knew all along that Cooney was selected by the judges simply to give Petrilla a second vote for HER tax increase.

McGruff said...

January 1, 2010 at 9:04 AM

Bill said...

Eliminate all row officer's deputies. We elected the row officers to do a job, not hire someone else to do it while they sell cars or run beer stores. Cut the jury commissioners salary and benefits. 10,000 a year and full benefits for a one day meeting is over the top.

January 1, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Brian said...

They are going to raise taxes and cut funding to parks and recreation? We've been paying taxes to keep these areas open for our recreation. Now we have to pay increased taxes and loose our recreation...WHAT? While we are bending over just club us on the head too! Cut the overlapping and unnecessary positions in the county gov. You can go a lot deeper and still have a functioning gov. Folks there may just have to start putting in a 7 hour work day for a change.

January 1, 2010 at 9:27 AM

r powell said...

"She said senior citizens are eating cat food and skipping medication to pay for property taxes." RIGGHT- more likeeating cat food and skipping meds to go to mohegan sun....

January 1, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Patriot 2010 said...

To the three buffoons; do what industry does if you have a 10% shortfall then cut ALL budgets by 10%. If the unions won't cooperate then start layoffs. Citizens of "loser"ne county you can expect 10% to 20% tax increases annually until they hit the 90mil ceiling again. They are at 5mils now which means you're taxes will increase 1800%. That means that $500 current tax bill will be $9000 in the future. Thank you urban; you voted for reassessment, didn't you realize this corrupt county would raise taxes annually? If you didn't you are a moron! We need to completely clean the corrupt courthouse; everyone must go!

January 1, 2010 at 9:35 AM

lkgarden said...

It's time to put the county in default by withholding taxes.

January 1, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Kramden 326 said...

Is it true that Luzerne County owns and operates a short line railroad? If so, perhaps selling this asset off to the NS or CPR,would make good economic sense. If neither carrier has an interest in such a purchase, I'd suggest giving the line to either of them, or even closing it down, just to get rid of the expense involved. I'm assuming that if it did shut down, the courts would "order" service continued to businesses dependent on this service. But the whole issue revolves around if the county really does own the railroad. Please advise me and the other readers on this....thanks...Happy New Year!!!!!