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Water department's future to be discussed

Published October 13. 2011 05:01PM

Council members from Coaldale and Lansford will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss whether they want to sell the boroughs' water system operations to a private company.

The meeting will be held at Coaldale's borough hall on Third Street.

Lansford council has been asking for months for Coaldale to agree to schedule the meeting. On Tuesday, Coaldale Councilman Joe Hnat broached the subject, but wanted it to be closed to the public.

That plan was quickly quashed by solicitor Michael Greek, who advised Hnat that unless it involved just one person from each council, the meeting would have to be public.

The Lansford-Coaldale Joint Water Authority has come under fire for the salaries and benefits given its officers, who set their own remuneration.

Public water authority records list the board chairman as making $15,000 a year; the vice chairman/superintendent $47,000; the treasurer $8,000; the secretary $8,000 and the assistant secretary/treasurer $6,800. In addition, the chairman receives a $2,250 annual stipend; and the vice chairman, treasurer, secretary and assistant secretary-treasurer each receive an annual $2,150 stipend. All employees, including the officers, who define themselves as full-time employees, are eligible for medical benefits.

The officers have defended the earnings, saying their decision some years ago to eliminate an office position freed the money.

Lansford elects three officers to Coaldale's two.

Two companies have expressed interest in buying the water system: Aqua Pennsylvania of Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County, a subsidiary of Aqua America Inc., and Pennsylvania American Water, based in Mechanicsburg.

Both councils want to discuss the matter before deciding if they would meet with company representatives.

Some Coaldale council members have expressed concern that water rates would spike if the system was sold to a private company.

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