Save Muhlenberg Township Authority
Terminate the MTA?
On September 18, 2023, Muhlenberg Township, by and through its five Commissioners, voted to advertise an Ordinance that would dissolve, or terminate, the Muhlenberg Township Authority (“MTA”). See for yourself below.
A History of Service
The MTA has been in existence since 1940 as an independent, non-profit municipal authority, wholly separate from the Township. The MTA has, continuously on a daily basis, served over 9,000 customers with safe, quality, and affordable water, and provided sanitary sewer services needed for public health and safety. The MTA has not raised sewer rates once since 2016. The MTA has not raised water rates once since 2018. In fact, the MTA’s water rates are the 2nd lowest in Berks County – see for yourself below. The MTA has no planned rate increases, either on water or sewer. This is despite all the improvements that have been made, and improvements and enhancements that are planned for these systems, paid for by you, our customers.
What’s Really Behind the Takeover Attempt?
You may have heard from the Commissioners, either through their comments at their last meeting or through surrogates on social media, about supposed “problems” surrounding the MTA. The Township further comments that they don’t know what is going on at the MTA. That is simply not the case. We ask you to avoid the NOISE, which is merely an attempt by the Township to distract from the real issues. What the public may not know is that the MTA invests significant amounts of your money into the water and sewer systems on an annual basis, both for repairs and scheduled improvements. We’re experts in this line of work – we’ve been doing it for over 80 years. While no system is perfect, no matter how much money is invested, the MTA is always working for its customers to ensure the highest degree of service. Frankly, the MTA operates best when you don’t even know we’re there. That is true 99% of the time. Although water main breaks do happen and unfortunately, they are unavoidable, MTA crews quickly solve those breaks with little to no interruption in service.
Two Key Questions
It important to remember that there are two fundamental questions affecting your water and wastewater services that's been put at risk by the Township’s actions:
- If the Township, with no experience over operations that the MTA has provided daily since 1940, wants to take over water and wastewater services of MTA customers, what is their plan?
- If the Township wants to seize the assets of the MTA's water and wastewater operations, will they preserve and protect the ratepayers’ $35 million by entering into a written trust agreement in favor of the ratepayers, supervised by the Berks County Court?
The Township must answer these key questions.
Why Not Meet?
Despite what the Township may have you believe, the MTA has, in fact, on many occasions, requested to meet with the Township to address any concerns they may have. Specifically, the MTA has offered to meet with the Township to discuss and resolve their concerns, and better inform them of all the good work the MTA performs, and of all the improvements that are already underway and those scheduled for completion. A significant part of that discussion would also include the MTA’s offer to assist the Township in solving the Township’s longstanding stormwater problem, which we believe is precipitating the Township’s ill-fated actions.
It all started with an informal meeting on June 1, 2023 to discuss MTA’s vision moving forward, in alignment with the Township, where assurances were given regarding the MTA’s future. Additional requests to meet were made both before and after the major storm event of July 9, 2023, where the MTA once again sought to address concerns that the Township voiced over the MTA’s recently-enhanced Emergency Response Plan. Multiple written requests to meet were conveyed to the Township through MTA’s Solicitor by e-mails (8/07/23, 8/10/23 & 9/25/23), letters (8/11/23 & 8/18/23 - see for yourself below), and telephone calls (8/04/23 & 9/08/23). There was no response. In addition, individual MTA Board members directly contacted Township Commissioners on multiple occasions seeking to schedule a meeting. Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown to the MTA or the public, the Township has not once agreed to meet. Even now, with this situation having escalated by the Township’s actions, the MTA has requested to meet with the Township to reach a common ground. As before, the Township has not responded to the MTA’s request to meet.
Surely, if there was legitimate interest in solving any issues that the Township perceives to be a chief concern to the public, ending in terminating the MTA, the Township would have agreed to meet as opposed to simply initiating, on it's own, this drastic action. The MTA can only continue to ask why the Township has refused to meet over these past couple of months, and why certain Township employees and officials have taken overt actions within that timeframe with the effect of sending a clear message to the MTA, its employees and customers - that the MTA’s days are numbered.
Get Informed & Become Involved
Please get informed and become involved. That starts by reading our Letter to Customers and the Resolution that the MTA Board passed on September 21, 2023, below. We encourage you to regularly visit this website to check for updates and new developments on what is occurring. We also invite you to attend MTA Board Meetings, which are held at the Maintenance Building facility located at 3711 Oak Street, Temple, PA 19560 on a monthly basis. The dates and times of the Meetings are listed on the website. In addition, you can always contact us during normal business hours to ask any questions that you may have (#610-929-4709). You may also call the Township Commissioners (#610-929-4727) to ask why this action was being considered, and plan to attend Commissioners’ meetings, which are held at the Township Administration Building located at 210 George Street, Reading, PA 19605.
- October 5, 2023
- The MTA Board met at its regularly scheduled meeting on October 5, 2023. Township Commissioner Steven Wolfinger appeared at the meeting and confirmed, unequivocally, that the Township Board of Commissioners would not vote on October 16, 2023 to dissolve the Authority. Commissioner Wolfinger also confirmed, on behalf of the Commissioners, that dissolution would not be entertained for a period of at least another six (6) months. This news was somewhat surprising, but well-received by the Authority Board, Authority employees, and those members of the public in attendance
- As the MTA continues to work on both existing projects, and plan for those future projects and initiatives that have come to our attention directly or through the public, the six (6) month “revisit of dissolution” is somewhat unsettling. One thing remains clear – the MTA Board is committed to staying the path of transparent operation, enhanced communication, improvement in operations towards excellence, all with specific focus on quality and service, fiscal responsibility, and protection of ratepayers’ monies. This has been the direction of the current MTA Board over the past twenty-one (21) months and shall continue.
- Commissioner Wolfinger also noted at MTA’s October 5th meeting that the Township may seek to increase the MTA Board size to seven (from current five) and place two (2) Township Commissioners on the MTA Board.
- After hearing Commissioner Wolfinger’s affirmation that the Township would not vote to dissolve, the MTA respectfully requested that the Township take affirmative action at its next meeting on October 16, 2023 to rescind the published Ordinance. The Authority also requested that the Township website be updated in the interim to reflect the current position of the Township, as conveyed by Commissioner Wolfinger, that the MTA would not be dissolved. The MTA has yet to receive confirmation or response on either of those requests.
- Although it appears the MTA is currently “safe”, at least for the next six (6) months, the public must continue to be informed and engaged on this issue.
- Additionally at MTA’s October 5th meeting, there was significant discussion regarding the Township’s stormwater issue, and its effect on the Authority’s sanitary sewer system. The Authority has implemented certain policy initiatives and authorized ongoing projects in an effort to alleviate this issue for its customers, to the extent it can. With that being said, the underlying stormwater issue facing the Township must be addressed, and the Authority remains committed to being a part of the solution. The MTA has asked again for a meeting with the Township to discuss these issues and put together an action plan. The MTA awaits the Commissioners’ response.
- October 16, 2023
- The Township Commissioners deferred vote on passing the Ordinance that would serve to terminate the MTA. The Ordinance was not rescinded, however.
- The Township Commissioners instead voted to appoint two (2) new members to the Board of the Authority, naming Commissioner Wolfinger and Commissioner LaSota as appointees. By doing so, the Township desires the MTA Board be expanded from its current five (5) member Board to seven (7).
- The Township may still proceed with termination at any time, so the public must continue to be informed and engaged on this issue.
- November 9, 2023
- The MTA Board tabled a vote on a Resolution to Amend its Articles of Incorporation that would serve to expand the number of Board members from five (5) to seven (7). As the Boards of both the MTA Township Commissioners reorganize in January, the MTA Board elected to take such action after the respective Boards have been reconstituted.
- The MTA Board continues to aggressively move forward with existing and planned future projects, all with aim of continuing to provide safe, quality service at reasonable rates