Towamencin residents move forward with fight against sewer privatization
Residents will now draft a new local law that will forbid the sale of their sewer system. They hope to finish it before the deal closes.Listen 1:15
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The fight against sewer privatization will continue in Towamencin.
Unofficial results from Montgomery County show that 60% of Towamencin voters approved the creation of a government study commission.
The ballot question was a last-ditch effort to stop the pending sale of Towamencin’s sewer system. A group of Towamencin residents called Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE) want to give the township more local control by creating a home rule charter.
NOPE candidates ran to be members of the government study commission so they could draft a home rule charter, which would allow them to change local law to forbid the sewer sale to private company NextEra.
Residents also voted on the seven candidates they’d like to serve on the commission. All of the NOPE candidates were the highest vote-getters.
“We believe our neighbors have sent a clear message that they are unhappy with the vote on the sewer sale and want a study performed,” the NOPE candidates wrote in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“Now, the real work begins. We will perform this study openly and with public input, as we have always said. We take this opportunity very seriously and are humbled by the trust our neighbors have in us.”
The group has been concerned about losing control of a public entity to a private company and NextEra increasing sewer rates. Towamencin charges a flat rate of $450 a year per sewer connection. The 10-year sewer rate estimates are $1,060 per sewer connection for NextEra, with a two-year rate freeze.
This win was an uphill battle, according to NOPE co-founder Kofi Osei.
He said it may be the first time a government study commission has been antagonistic to the current local government. But the win shows that residents, he said, were unhappy with the township’s decision to sell to NexEra, even though residents have been opposing the sale since 2021.
The NOPE group hopes to draft a home rule charter quickly and get it on the ballot in time to stop the sale of the sewer system. If they can make the sale illegal before the deal closes, there’s a chance the sale can be terminated “without liability or other obligation” for Towamencin.
“The home rule, constitutional provision, is really about self-governance. I’m glad that Towamencin residents do want to govern themselves and they don’t want to just take orders from a five person board,” Osei said.
The preliminary count of votes for NOPE candidates:
- Tina Gallagher: 4,447
- Jenn Foster: 4,058
- Gisela Koch: 3,813
- Martin Cohen: 3,734
- Kofi Osei: 3,717
- Mark Warren: 3,585
- Don Lepp: 3,521
The preliminary count of votes for opposition candidates:
- Nancy Becker: 3,341
- Connie Brown: 3,334
- Doug Kile: 3,156
- Amy Tarlo: 3,064
- Jeff Baer: 2,999
- Todd Fisher: 2,834
- Mike Main: 2,560
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