Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hearing On Water Company Sale-Editorial

In yesterday's Standard Speaker an editor unnamed wrote an Opinion piece speaking to request by the board of the Hazleton City Authority for a public hearing on the proposal by Mayor Barletta to look at selling the water department of the Hazleton City Authority.

Mayor Lou Barletta's plan to generate income by selling the Hazleton City Authority water department is intriguing, but the idea raises many questions.

The only way to answer those questions is to hold a public hearing on the proposal.

Mr. Editor that isn't the only way. When the proposal was first put forth members of the board stated they had a lot of questions for the Mayor. It has come to light that those same members of the HCA board are telling employees of the water department that the Mayor has refused to meet with the board.

The realities are that the board only invited Council Members Joseph Yannuzzi and Evelyn Graham to meet with them after their last scheduled authority meeting. No invitation was ever extended to the Mayor according to Barletta.

The piece goes on to state
Chris Paige, the Monroe County lawyer who is running against Barletta in the Republican primary for Congress, claims that state law requires at least 75 percent of the municipalities served by the HCA to approve the plan. He also disputes the mayor's cost projections.

Mr. Editor if you read the Times Leader you would find that Mr. Andras, Hazleton City Authority Member dismissed Paige's claims with one sentence.

Authority Chairman Phil Andras said he’s not certain the Pennsylvania statute would apply to the authority because 60 percent of its customers live in Hazleton.

The law Paige cites contains a provision that the total residents of the municipalities outside the boundaires of the city must exceed the residents who live inside the city by 50%. If Hazleton has a total population of 22,000 at the last census then the total residents served by the Authority outside Hazleton must be at least 33,000.

Another statement in the Standard Speaker editorial:

The Hazleton City Authority board is against the plan. They say selling the water system to a private company will result in higher water rates and possibly poor service.

Oh really. Why didn't you tell the readers that the Hazleton City Authority raised its rates 10 percent in 2008?

From a prior SOP post:

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.

Biased in the media has no place when such a serious issue is at question. As for a public hearing it would be another dog and pony show.

The HCA members of the board, Mayor Barletta, and Hazleton City Council
members need to sit down and explore the proposal, no hearing necessary just dialogue. In the end right now that is all it is, just a proposal. It is possible that some great alternatives will come with this exchange of ideas.

Barletta,Hazleton City Council, and the taxpayers are faced with some serious financial consequences. At least Barletta came forward with a plan. To date no one else did. Let's not lose focus that there are jobs in the city at peril where layoffs have already started. There are also jobs at the HCA that are of concern. It would not make sense to save the city jobs at the expense of HCA water department employees. But the rhetoric and posturing by opponents is designed to change that focus.

If the HCA members are serious they need to be up front and produce their documentation that they requested the Mayor attend a meeting. Otherwise they are demonstrating just how political they are. In 2003 Mr. Andras stated "It's just an attack on me" when questioned why a five year, $13 million dollar no-bid contractor was paying for his meals after Authority meetings. Mr. Andras, if I were you I would pay very close attention to what happened to certain Luzerne County board members recently.

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