Lansford Borough Council has agreed to meet with representatives of two water companies that have expressed an interest in purchasing the water system it owns with Coaldale and part of Nesquehoning.

Coaldale Borough Council indicated it likely will also meet with the potential purchasers.

Hopefully, the water company won't be sold; that the ownership and control will remain local.

Water companies interested in making the purchase are Aqua Pennsylvania of Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County and Pennsylvania Water Company, Mechanicsburg.

One Lansford official who voted to talk with officials of Aqua Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Water Company said, "There's nothing wrong with sitting down and talking with these companies."

By talking, it indicates there is a perceived interest by the councils in selling the local utility.

Why should the sale of the water company even be considered?

If an outside firm purchases it, would the stockholders of that company be as concerned with local rates as locally appointed authority members are? Of course rate increases would have to be approved by state regulators, but is that good enough?

When there is a problem, where will you have to call for service? Somewhere many, many miles away from the Panther Valley? And, will service be done as quickly as it occurs now?

Will local residents have any say in whether or not the Lansford-Coaldale Joint Water Authority assets are sold to some major conglomerate?

There's absolutely no justifiable reason local officials should be meeting with representatives of outside companies regarding the selling of the local water interests. Even if it is eventually decided - and hopefully it won't be - to sell the local water system, it has to be done via a bidding process, not by meetings between local political leaders and a couple of companies that are seeing a potential chance to put ownership in the hands of out-of-towners.

If there ever is serious thought being given to selling the assets of the water authority, the reasons for such a proposal should be made clear to the public immediately.

Instead of local officials meeting with officials from outside concerns on a takeover of the local water utility, maybe a committee should be formed to investigate and report back to council - and the public - the state of the Coaldale-Lansford Joint Water Authority.

Don't be quick to part with local assets, especially when so many residents are affected. Don't take local control of a major utility like water out of local hands.

If it is determined that there are inefficiencies in the operation of the authority, then perhaps the borough councils of Coaldale and Lansford should consider an overhaul. But don't let operations slip from local control.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]