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Group files petition against Allentown water, sewer lease proposal

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 28 2012 04:31:26 PM CST

Could Allentown's charter be changing?

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Could Allentown's charter be changing?

A group opposing the lease of the city's water and sewer system is hoping 4,000 signatures will do the trick.

After weeks of gathering signatures, a committee of Allentown residents who oppose the lease waited Wednesday as 101 petitions were recorded at the clerk's office.

"We have 20 days to review them, and then we will issue a determination as to their sufficiency," said Michael Hanlon, city clerk.

The committee gathered the signatures, calling for a May 2013 referendum to amend the city charter and require the sale or lease of any city property over $10 million to go before voters first.

The clerk will confer with the city solicitor during the verification process.

The solicitor issued an opinion in October, saying all of the signatures on the petition must be collected by the five members of the committee.

The committee said there is nothing in the charter to support that requirement and used 30 registered voters to gather the signatures.

"We see this as a blatant attempt to thwart our efforts and an obvious distortion of the intent of the charter," said Dan Poresky, committee member.

No matter what happens to the petition, the committee said it hopes city council will put the issue on the ballot.

Council President Julio Guridy said council is always open to positive discussions, but said, "Allentown has 120,000 residents. I feel that we need to look at what is best for the entire city." 

Councilwoman Jeanette Eichenwald was the only vote on council against investigating the lease of the water and sewer system.

"The right thing to do is to accept this petition, to understand the will of the people and to respond," said Eichenwald in referene to the petition filing.

The committee said if the proposed lease of the water and sewer system moves forward, it will seek an injunction.

“The petitioners’ proposed ballot question offers nothing in the way of another solution," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, D-Allentown.