The Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority (LPVRSA) is expected to pass a rate increase of $10 per year.
Robert Tschoepe, treasurer of the Lower Providence Sewer Authority board, explained at the Oct. 10 board meeting that the LPVRSA increase would require the township’s approximately 11,000 EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit) customers to pay roughly $125,000.
He said that the amount would be an approximate increase of $2.50 per customer, or $74.50 total.
Tschoepe further explained that this amount would only satisfy the LPVRSA increase, and the Lower Providence Sewer Authority may have additional increases in order to cover its debt service bond-issued payments in the coming years.
“There’s nothing being built,” Tschoepe said, referencing the down economy, “When you take a bond issue you expect to sell EDUs a year to help pay for the bond issue. That hasn’t happened.”
During the meeting, Tschoepe pointed out that the proposed YMCA facility would greatly provide EDU sales for the township.
Who’s to Blame?
According to a recent Patch article, neighboring municipalities, Perkiomen Township and the Collegeville/Trappe Municipal Authority this week announced that a letter will be sent to its respective residents, addressing the expected rate increases, and pinpointing Lower Providence Township as the cause.
In the Patch article, the municipalities packaged lawsuits and unpaid bills between Lower Providence Township and LPVRSA with the Township’s continued opposition to an LPVRSA Middle Interceptor project, as the reason behind the rate increase.
Fred Walker, chairman of the Lower Providence Sewer Authority, and treasurer on the LPVRSA, explained that the rate increase is a completely separate issue from the Township’s opposition to the Middle Interceptor.
“That has to do with disputed bills,” Walker said. “A totally different issue.”
Walker said that the Township filed a lawsuit in 2003, in which Lower Providence claimed that the authority was overbilling Township ratepayers.
As the Lower Providence Township representative of the six-municipality regional sewer authority, Walker further explained that LPVRSA has shown projections of rate increases over the years.
“This is not a surprise to us, this has been projected for years,” Walker said.
Walker suggested that neighboring municipalities blaming Lower Providence for the rate increase is a tactic to discredit the township’s opposition to the Middle Interceptor project.
Currently, Lower Providence Township is the lone municipal holdout on the LPVRSA not approving a Middle Sewer Interceptor project, which would run from the Arcola Road Bridge to the confluence of Skippack and Perkiomen creeks in the township.
“They’re not the host location. You can’t force this,” Walker said. “The Township will fight it.”
Paying Attention to Details
As previously reported, Lower Providence is opposed to the LPVRSA project for several reasons, including the unwanted potential environmental, historic and aesthetic results on residential homes and at Hoy Park.
Recently, Robert Fieo, LPVRSA chairman, sent out a comprehensive document on behalf of the LPVRSA to the region’s approximate 65,000 ratepayers, rebutting the arguments made by Lower Providence, and explaining why the project has been stalled for several years.
Walker said that this was an unauthorized letter, but added that a single argument supersedes what either side has to say.
“We’re not holding anything back. The bottom line is the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] is the authority who withdrew or turned down the permit application, because it was not correct,” Walker said. “So, they’re the ones who stopped the project, not Lower Providence.”
Walker referenced a letter from the DEP addressed to Fieo, dated April 26, 2011, in which the DEP stated that the Middle Interceptor proposal through Lower Providence is inconsistent with the location approved under the Feb. 26, 2004, Act 537 Plan. The DEP stopped the progress of the interceptor upgrades as it found the Middle Interceptor portion to be “administratively incomplete.”
The DEP also sent a letter stating the same administratively incomplete note to the LPVRSA in April 2010.
“Lower Providence Township and the [Lower Providence] Sewer authority pay attention to the details,” Walker said. “And when Lower Providence Township pointed that out, which is the details, [the DEP] corrected themselves.”
According to several Lower Providence Sewer Authority members, the original plan calls for the Middle Interceptor to be placed on the Upper Providence side of the Perkiomen Creek.
Walker acknowledged that the original location would be a comparatively more expensive location.
The Times Herald reported that Lower Providence sent out a release in July of this year, again stating that the proposed LPVRSA Middle Interceptor through Lower Providence has not yet been approved by the DEP.
Lower Providence Township Manager Richard Gestrich sent a letter to the LPVRSA this week to the LPVRSA, asking that the regional sewer authority again consider the original right-of-way location on the Upper Providence side. In the letter, the Township also requested that two additional variations be considered: Replacing the existing pipe in the existing trench with a larger pipe; or constructing a parallel interceptor to the existing one on the other side of Perkiomen Creek.