HARRISBURG – At a recent hearing at the state Capitol, Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster) got few answers while attempting to pin down the Wolf administration’s position on the future of Chester Water Authority. The exchange occurred in a budget hearing when Lawrence questioned Secretary Dennis Davin, a Wolf appointee who helms the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
“As it stands today, what is DCED’s position on the sale of Chester Water Authority?” asked Lawrence.
“I’d have to get back to you. I don’t know exactly what it is right now,” replied Davin.
At issue is the fate of Chester Water Authority (CWA,) which rejected an unsolicited takeover offer several years ago. Under a state law known as Act 47, DCED has sweeping authority over financially distressed cities including Chester. Davin recently appointed a receiver to oversee the near-bankrupt city.
Chester claims it owns CWA, with an eye toward selling the water authority to provide a financial windfall for the city. Lawrence and others dismiss Chester’s claimed ownership of the water authority as completely baseless.
In a letter last year, Lawrence admonished Davin over the Wolf administration’s handling of the situation. “The [Wolf] administration validates the absurd position that the City of Chester has an ownership claim over…assets that clearly belong to CWA,” said Lawrence, who went on to state “the suggestion that the City of Chester owns…CWA is ludicrous.” Davin responded with his own letter claiming that DCED and the Act 47 receiver had never “promoted a sale” of CWA.
Lawrence questioned Davin on this point at the recent hearing, producing documents that clearly showed DCED’s recovery coordinator pressing for a sale of Chester Water Authority, seemingly contradicting Davin’s claims.
“You said in [your letter to me] that you and the recovery coordinator your agency appointed had not promoted the sale of Chester Water Authority. Then it turns out that the recovery coordinator, in fact, was promoting the sale of Chester Water Authority. And now, you’re telling me you don’t know if you have a position. Which is it?” asked an exasperated Lawrence.
“We’ll respond to you. I don’t have a response right now,” said Davin.
“It’s very disappointing to me that you seem not to have any idea [about] this, or have any answer to these questions,” responded Lawrence.
Lawrence recently reintroduced legislation to mandate a ratepayer referendum prior to the sale of any municipally owned water authority. House Bill 97
has been referred to the House Consumer Affairs Committee for further consideration.
Representative John Lawrence
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham