EDITORIAL: Dead in the water

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

It is difficult to fathom what the thinking is behind the action by several Antrim Township Supervisors that has left the proposed sale of the township water plant to the Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority literally dead in the water.

While some township officials are holding out hope that the deal could still happen, others involved are seeing the vote by Curtis Myers, Rick Baer and Fred Young III as the door being closed. It’s a shame that so many people put so much time and effort into a proposal that has gone down at the 11th hour and for what?

The development has not only left the Franklin County Area Development Corporation (FCADC) with a big bill to pay, it has soured relations between Antrim Township and the other parties involved. Future dealings will likely be strained, if held at all. And who could blame them?

Myers and Baer had planned to attend the most recent meeting of the water authority in a last ditch effort to iron out the agreement. Neither showed.

The intent of the deal was agreed to two years ago. What looked like an imminent agreement late last year was disrupted when the supervisors added clauses to the purchase offer that frankly don’t make a bit of sense. At issue is the Hess Development and when 10 homes there would be required to hook on to public water. Without the sale, the Hess homeowners will have to connect in 2016. The Greencastle offer would actually delay that until 2019. That’s right. It doesn’t make sense.

As a bit of background....FCADC had acquired a $1.25 million state grant to upgrade the Antrim water plant, based on Greencastle buying the plant and that the upgrade to the plant would result in $20 million in new capital investment and 75 new jobs by June 30 of this year. Norfolk Southern’s plans in Antrim would fill that bill if the merger occurred. The plant upgrade is nearly complete, but the supervisors have thrown a monkey wrench into the sale that has FCADC officials scrambling to plan how to pay back the $1.25 million. That payback will most definitely cost the county more than dollars, but also potential economic development, since so many eggs must now go into the basket to pay for the plant renovation in Antrim Township. We hope this will not scare businesses from moving in, which would relieve residents of some property tax burdens.

Young recently called the proposed agreement “a smokin’ deal for them (the Greencastle water authority).” As it is now, it is a smokin’ deal for the township. Sale or no sale, it obtained a free water plant upgrade. It makes us wonder about the intent to make this work for the Greencastle-Antrim community at large.

Not all proposals work out. We know that. Usually the reason is clear. This one is anything but. We don’t know for sure if it’s in the best interest of the township to sell the water plant; however the parties involved in economic development all think the systems should merge. It is also a goal of the state Department of Environmental Protection. We do think, however, that if there was not really an objective by local officials to finalize the sale, the grant should never have been accepted.

We’ve heard often over the years that many believe there needs to be more cooperation between the township and borough to regionalize services. After this fiasco we wonder how that will ever happen.