Water merger talks opened to public


The joint committee to discuss combining the Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority and Antrim Township Water Municipal has done its job. Now the two appointed bodies are meeting monthly through December to decide how to move the project forward. The two sides met Sept. 16 following the regular GAFCWA meeting. While the committee sessions had been private, the full board sessions are open, and held at borough hall.

Present for Greencastle were Greg Rock, Bud O'Mara and manager Susan Armstrong.

Present for Antrim were Rodney Eberly, Dale Hostetter, Chad Murray, township administrator Brad Graham and public works director Carl Rundquist.

Armstrong moderated the meeting, stating the initial purpose of the group was to put out a request for qualifications for an engineering firm to conduct a feasibility study, and to update the 2009 financial study conducted by Dr. Ed Goodhart, a retired Shippensburg University professor, at the behest of Greencastle. Graham added that it was also necessary to determine how costs would be split.

Aware that some contention had followed the initiative since GAFCWA offered to buy ATMA's system, Armstrong pointed out that there were some new people now involved.

"Let's all start fresh, put the past five years behind us," she said. "It's a new day."

Graham continued, "If we're going to be true to the process, let's put everything out there and discuss it."

He asked for a copy of the 2009 study, since no one from the township had seen it.

Armstrong promised to get him one this week. The group agreed that an independent engineering firm was required to conduct the study, one that had not worked with either the borough or township. They even wanted the company who would write the request for qualifications proposal and screen the replies to be neutral.

Will it fly?

Even if a study came back supporting a blend of the water systems, there was concern that the money would be ill-spent. Eberly still wanted more of a "warm and fuzzy" feeling from the supervisors, who seemed to care most about representation on a joint board.

"The only study we need is for someone to study the council and the supervisors," he said, "or we will be flushing money down the drain. Will they allow what's best for the customers?"

He said the elected officials were politicians. He was critical of their understanding of the issues, and asked that they trust the appointed authority members, who did understand finances and operations of the water systems.

"If we say it's a good move, it's a good move."

Murray saw merit to Eberly's apprehensions. From his vantage point in previous discussions, he was tired of throwbacks to the past.

"Any question can be answered," he said, "but grudges cannot be overcome. Every roadblock we hit, grudges surface that no longer matter."

Graham said the board of supervisors was more open to the merge concept, but he was not sure there was the momentum to move forward because of the Type A personalities involved, even though a combining of the systems was right for the community.

O'Mara promoted a comprehensive study that could be viewed from a business sense, including the transition and organization, and politically how the board should be structured.

Armstrong and Graham were tasked with getting input from their elected officials on specific questions to be answered in the study. It was hoped the entire analysis could be concluded by March 2014.