Council Debates Future of Public Works and Municipal Authority
While Collegeville and Trappe are in agreement that Public Works and CTMA should be merged, views differ on how to do that.
At its Oct. 2 monthly meeting, Trappe Borough Council discussed a resolution, proposed by Collegeville Borough, that would eliminate the current Collegeville-Trappe Joint Public Works Department (CTJPWD) and put all of its duties under Collegeville Trappe Municipal Authority (CTMA).
Currently, the Collegeville/Trappe Joint Public Works Department provides public water and other services to both boroughs, and the Collegeville/Trappe Municipal Authority provides sanitary sewer services. Both offices are located at 220 W. First Ave.
Solicitor David Onorato offered a historical background, saying this issue has been discussed many times over the years. The intention in the 1990’s was to dissolve CTMA, which owns the public sewer system, when its debt was retired. Collegeville Borough now wishes to dissolve Public Works instead.
“This resolution before us, if adopted, would transfer the assets and obligations of Public Works to CTMA,” said Onorato. “There would be a lengthy process to accomplish this task, and this resolution would begin that process.”
Councilman Lewis DiPrete questioned the legality of the public works department, noting that CTMA operates under the rules of the Municipal Authority Act of PA. Onorato said that public works is a joint committee with no legal basis.
Public Works employees are currently covered under Collegeville Borough for their pension plan, for which the borough receives state money.
Council members had varying views on the resolution.
“The benefits to combining the two would be that both boroughs would save time and money,” said Councilman Paul Edwards. “We would only need one audit, one insurance policy, less time at monthly meetings, fewer banking fees and one solicitor.”
Councilman Nevin Scholl said the consolidation will be costly in the long run, and will take power out of residents' hands.
“In going in this direction, we would be sacrificing funding from the state (for the pensions), in the range of $20,000-40,000 per year,” said Scholl. "We are also moving responsibilities off the shoulders of the public onto the shoulders of those who do not face the voters. I think that is a step in the wrong direction."
Council President Fred Schuetz minimized the economical impact to residents.
"There’s no question that $20,000 is a lot of money, but with 2800 rate payers in the community, we are looking at a quarterly cost of $1.90,"Schuetz said.
Councilwoman Tammy Liberi wanted more information before passing the resolution.
“We need more information,” said Liberi. “In business we don't make decisions based on opinions about facts, we make them based on the facts. We need the facts.
Edwards stated that Collegeville is adamant to move toward CTMA as the authority.
"I understand why, because there have been issues in the past and they don't want to go back to those issues," Edwards said. He agreed, believing it to be a more efficient way to provide services.
“Personally, I don’t agree,” said Councilwoman Cathy Johnson.
The council decided to seek out more information such as costs associated with each option and whether public works employees could continue with their work duties.
In a related motion, Trappe Borough approved the employment terms and conditions of the director of Public Works, which included a slight raise. Two council members voted against the motion, one saying it is “inappropriate to give a raise to the leader when the union contract is not negotiated.”
The public is invited to comment on these issues at the next Trappe Borough meeting to be held Tuesday, November 13.