BUSINESS

Borough council says no to water merger, has another idea

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The fourth entity needed to approve the concept of a joint water authority failed to do so Monday night. Greencastle Borough Council did not discuss a letter received from the Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority, or respond to a personal plea from GAFCWA chairman Jason Gerhart.

Gerhart addressed Mayor Robert Eberly and council members Charles Eckstine, James Farley, Matt Smith, Craig Myers, Wade Burkholder, Frank Webster Jr. and Harry Foley. He referred to a letter which also went to the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors and Antrim Township Municipal Authority. Those three boards had approved the idea of a merge of water assets. The letter came after a series of meetings attended by representatives from the governing bodies. If all four supported a merge, the two authorities would negotiate the fine points of the deal. Gerhart said the water committee would continue to meet, to keep council and the supervisors apprised of progress.

On March 4 he told council that GAFCWA wanted a single water system, and asked Greencastle to vote on the proposal if possible.

"We'd like this thing to move forward quickly."

When the meeting was ending, Burkholder asked if they would discuss the water issue. President Eckstine said he hadn't planned on it.

No to merge

"A merge is out," said Eckstine later. "So is a joint authority."

Eberly stressed that Greencastle was still willing to work together with Antrim. "It's possible."

Both supported one water system to serve customers in the combined territory, and said it could be a reality in the future.

Eckstine also no longer favored GAFCWA purchasing the smaller township water system, which it had offered to do in 2009. Since then, the authority had conducted due diligence on assets and fair market value. Negotiations had bounced back and forth, with no clear consensus on how a blended authority should operate. One key sticking point was representation on the board.

"I'm glad the purchase didn't happen," said Eckstine. "They (the supervisors) did us a favor by not accepting our offer." He said council had since learned of factors that would have made a buyout untenable.

"We want one system," Eberly said again. "But it has to work."

Council met in executive session before the regular meeting, and Eckstine said all seven members agreed with the action not to pursue the agreement as presented by GAFCWA. They had prepared another proposal to send to Antrim for the supervisors to consider. Eckstine was not at liberty to disclose the details of their plan.

However, he concluded, "I think it's the solution to our problem."