Northampton Press

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
PRESS PHOTOS BY AL RECKERNorthampton Borough Municipal Authority is seeking to buy Whitehall Township Authority and offer services to the whole township. PRESS PHOTOS BY AL RECKERNorthampton Borough Municipal Authority is seeking to buy Whitehall Township Authority and offer services to the whole township.
Whitehall officials have rejected an offer to sell Whitehall Township Authority to NBMA. Whitehall officials have rejected an offer to sell Whitehall Township Authority to NBMA.

NBMA offer to acquire Whitehall authority rejected

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 by AL RECKER Special to The Press in Local News

Two-thirds of township customers are already served by borough group

Northampton Borough Municipal Authority’s interest in acquiring the Whitehall Township Authority has been flatly rejected by the township.

The acquisition would have resulted in NBMA providing water to all Whitehall residents, businesses and industries.

Stephen Kerbacher, NBMA general manager, confirmed Jan. 4 that Whitehall Township has turned down the request for both entities to sit down and discuss NBMA taking over all WTA assets.

“We will be willing at some time in the future to talk about the NBMA becoming the sole water provider for the township,” Kerbacher said.

He reported there have not been any face-to-face meetings between the township and NBMA.

Edward Hozza Sr., NBMA chairman, said an acquisition would be a “win-win for everybody. We would pay the township money for its assets.”

He mentioned the sale of the WTA to the NBMA would be financially beneficial to the township.

“The administration of Whitehall Township does not have any interest in pursuing your offer to discuss acquisition of the Whitehall Township Authority by NBMA,” Whitehall Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. replied to Kerbacher’s request. “The WTA has proven to be an effective and responsive part of our municipal water supply and has provided our residents with quality service at low rates.”

Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners agreed with Harakal and stated the WTA is not for sale.

NBMA currently serves two-thirds of the township with 6,315 customers, and WTA has the remaining third at 2,800 customers. Advocates for the sale mentioned having uniform rates for all Whitehall customers would be beneficial. The NBMA rate is $4.25 per 1,000 gallons, and the WTA rate is $5 per 1,000 gallons.

Kerbacher said the NBMA also provides water service to Coplay, Northampton and North Catasauqua boroughs and North Whitehall and Allen townships.

“We serve a total population of 40,000, with approximately 16,000 billable accounts,” Kerbacher said.

There are similarities between NBMA and WTA. Both entities use the same water meters, billing system software and customer database software. Both groups are also members of the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System pension plan.

NBMA has invested more than $100 million in the past 25 years on capital improvements, including a new water treatment plant that produces a daily average of 3.5 million gallons. According to Kerbacher, the plant has been in service since June 2006. It has a current capacity of 8 MGD (millions of gallons per day) and is designed to easily expand to 12 MGD.

Having more than 7 million gallons of water storage tanks and reservoirs, the NBMA contends it could adequately provide safe drinking water and fire protection to the entire distribution system, including Whitehall.

NBMA crews perform nearly 100 percent of distribution system maintenance, water main and hydrant installations and all water meter installations and replacements.

The authority made an open invitation to township officials to tour the water treatment plant and its other facilities.