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Burnham: latest board to send note to Lewistown over MABL controversy

Editor’s note: Due to technical issues related to our electronic publishing system, this story was delayed in appearing on our home page, and the portion appearing on Page A5 was difficult to read in our All Access edition. The same issue prevented a “pop-up” version of the story from appearing with the All-Access edition.

BURNHAM – Burnham Borough Council has joined several other local municipalities serviced by the Municipal Authority of the Borough of Lewistown in expressing displeasure with the termination of the memorandum of understanding that would have created a new county-wide municipal authority by Lewistown Borough Council and the recent announcement by Lewistown Borough Council President Venus Shade that there are no plans to sell or transfer MABL.

Burnham Borough Council has sent a letter to Lewistown Borough Council, and a copy was submitted to The Sentinel for publication. The full text is included below.

To: Members of the Lewistown Borough Council

The Burnham Borough Council is extremely disappointed to hear of Members of the Lewistown Borough Council continued efforts to seek additional revenues by taking advantage of a county-wide utility system. By doing so, you are supplementing the Borough of Lewistown’s budget, at the cost of Mifflin County water consumers. Council President Venus Shade recently addressed some concerns published in the Lewistown Sentinel regarding the topic. In an effort of transparency, we as a council representing Burnham Borough residents would like to provide our view on the abrupt decision made by Lewistown Borough Council to terminate the memorandum of understanding between all participating municipal water consumers.

It is obvious that the Lewistown Borough Council is passing on its financial woes to county-wide residents in lieu of its own lack of financial accountability. Council President Shade claims she “believes a sale of the MABL would be detrimental to the interests of future borough councils and its residents.” This reason is why the action to appoint members to a county authority was not moved or approved. What was not stated in this article is that Lewistown Borough continues to seek ways to diminish funds from the water authority, in turn using authority revenues to pay Lewistown Borough expenses. Rather than having fair representation of consumer municipalities, the Lewistown Borough affiliates have taken majority control of MABL by replacing longstanding members of the board with two employees of Lewistown Borough.

Shade continues to justify the Councils actions, stating that “for most of MABL’s 60-year existence, the borough (Lewistown) served as the core rate base that allowed the system to expand into neighboring areas. Those past and existing rate payers are legally entitled to share in the investment they made.” However, according to county documents as of the year 1908, the Lewistown-Reedsville Water Company serviced Lewistown, Reedsville, and Granville municipalities. A few years later, the private ownership obtained assets of three other companies. Milroy, Burnham and Logan Spring Water Company. For Shade to insist “Lewistown served as the core rate base” simply is not true. It is to our knowledge that Burnham Borough and other participating municipal tax dollars made the investment for the construction, implantation and fees of their own consumer’s water lines. Our question is when organizing the Municipal Authority in March of 1944 from the dissolution of Lewistown-Reedsville Water, what exact dollar amount did the Lewistown Borough contribute?

The Burnham Borough Council collectively believes that rather than criticizing the Municipal Water Authority, the Lewistown Borough Council should he praising the Water Authority for having a surplus of funds to maintain not just the “county seat,” but a county-wide water system. Shade was quick to point out that the MABL paid upwards of $800,000 to lawyers for work completed during pending litigation, referencing it as a “tremendous waste of consumer money” However, Shade withheld the dollar amount Lewistown Borough spent of their resident tax dollars in their representation of the matter.

The Lewistown Borough Council has shown no regard for the proper maintenance and management of the county-wide water system and has decided to harvest county-wide assets for the sole benefit of Lewistown Borough. We respectively request that you take the time to listen to all the municipalities that have a vested interest-in this matter. We are asking for fair representation of all paying municipal consumers. Open communication and willing cooperation between all is necessary to maintain the viability of the county-wide public service for our communities.

Sincerely,

Robert Soccio, Council President

Rodney Barger, Vice President

Matthew Deamer, Councilman

Thomas Carver, Councilman

Steve Sheaffer, Councilman

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