To the Editor:
Here we are in midsummer, when Republicans think nobody is paying attention. What better time for Delco’s Republican machine to concoct yet another scheme to enrich party insiders and donors at the expense of Delaware County taxpayers?
First, some background. Delcora is the county authority responsible for treating wastewater. Delco citizens pay a sewage fee as part of their annual property taxes, and this money — which amounts to over $47 million annually — is eventually sent to Delcora.
Who runs Delcora? The Board of Delcora is appointed by Delaware County Council and the Board hires the Executive Director of Delcora. You may recall that in May, the Republicans on County Council appointed three unqualified members to the Delcora board. The three new board members were handpicked by the Executive Director of Delcora and the Delco GOP machine, and were chosen over two other highly qualified, non-partisan citizens nominated by the Democrats on County Council.
Now, facing the distinct possibility of losing control of County Council in November and therefore losing control of the Delcora Board, the Executive Director is afraid that his job paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation is in jeopardy. So what does he do? Delcora reaches out to Aqua, a longtime deep financial backer of the Delco GOP, and asks them if they want to buy Delcora. No public bidding necessary. Aqua says sure, especially if there is no bidding process. And Aqua also promises that they won’t replace the management of Delcora, or any of the patronage jobs at Delcora, once they take over. After about two minutes of discussion, the Delcora Board votes to support the deal.
Did I mention that the Executive Director of Delcora, Bob Willert, is the head of the Ridley Township Republican Committee?
Perhaps Delcora should be sold. And maybe Aqua should be the buyer. But there should be a robust, transparent and very public process that eliminates conflicts of interest when making these decisions. An independent consultant should be hired to analyze all options. Their findings should be made public. Public hearings and debate should then be called. And if the citizens of Delaware County conclude that now is the time to sell off this public asset worth hundreds of millions of dollars, there should be a public bidding process to ensure that the citizens of Delaware County get the best deal possible. Once the County’s sewers are sold, we can’t get them back and taxpayers will be on the hook for this decision for generations.
When deals are cut behind closed doors to enrich Republican insiders, there is a clear loser: the taxpayers of Delaware County.
Hollace Ann Rutkowski