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Battle over Reading water lease continues

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 14 2014 09:33:09 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 15 2014 07:35:43 AM CDT

Battle over Reading water lease continues

READING, Pa. -

The war over water in the city of Reading continues.

City council members and the mayor are still at odds over who should manage the city's water when the current lease ends.

Jacquie Powers lives in Reading. She is on a fixed income and concerned about her utility bill increasing.

"People are having a hard time paying these bills and it is getting to the point where I am getting scared that I might not be able to pay it," Powers said.

She is doing everything she can to cut down on her water usage.

But yet, she finds herself watching city council and the mayor fight over who should manage the city's water.

Council members want to continue a short-term lease with the Reading Area Water Authority with the option of looking into another company long term.

"I do not think the people would appreciate if we just handed something to the first person that comes to us. That could be the case, however let us do it the right way so that 10 years later, five years later, we are not regretting our decision," said Council President Francis Acosta.

But Mayor Vaughn Spencer thinks the city should continue a long-term lease with RAWA. If it does not, he says it could raise interest rates and be bad for RAWA.

"They are trying to sell water and for perspective companies, why would you want to be involved in an authority that might not be in existence for a year or two," said  Spencer, (D) Reading.

At the meeting, council members tabled a bill to dissolve RAWA and made their intention clear that they want to terminate RAWA's lease agreement with the city and require the authority to transfer all of its assets and operations to the city.

Council also wants RAWA to stop negotiating with the city.

But for residents like Powers, the threat of a water rate hike still looms depending on what the council ultimately decides.

"I probably will consider moving because if I cannot afford it," said Powers.

Both the mayor and council agree they want to figure something out before the end of the year when the current lease with RAWA ends.