Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dodge Ball

The recent efforts of a bunch of Cumberland Township residents to get some answers on a test well operated by the Gettysburg Municipal Authority [GMA] in their neighborhood, has resulted in a very ugly game of Municipal Dodge Ball between the GMA and the Township Supervisors while the citizens wind up the losers.

The township told the citizens that the well was drilled and operated by the GMA, and they would have to go there to get their answers. So they went to GMA. GMA's board is comprised solely of residents of Gettysburg Borough. GMA told the citizens to go to their Supervisors because their supervisors should be attending GMA meetings.

Both municipal entities are gutless. They hide behind phrases such as:

  • "We are not required to..."

  • "We have no plans at this time..."

  • "We are required only to..."
  • Now they play the "Go ask your Dad"--"Go ask your Mom" game. No one will give these folks the answers they seek.

    Indeed, the situation arose most likely when the Township, or some developer, asked GMA if there was sufficient water in the area to support "x" number of new homes. So, GMA goes and drills a test well that threatens the water supply of the existing residents in the area. Perhaps that is legitimate. What is not legitimate is that neither the developer [if one is involved], nor the Township, nor GMA bothered to inform the locals that they were drilling a test well in their area. Further, at every turn there were vague warnings that if pressed, the testing of the surrounding wells to see the effect the test well had on them could get expensive for the homeowners.

    That is a shameful shirking of responsibility. For elected officials to take this approach when they are there to protect the citizens is reprehensible. This is not the first time, either. The same thing happened 8 or so years ago when an enormous test well was drilled and spewed tens of thousands of gallons of water out on the ground to see if there was enough to support the construction of the new prison and the new power plant out in Straban Township. The Strabaddies were surprised when a large contingent of local farmers showed up complaining about their wells running dry --and all this in the middle of a two year drought!

    The buck-passing and shirking of responsibility by elected municipal officials is usually a sign they've been caught out at something. They do not like being publicly exposed when what they are about is the least bit shady. While the Strabaddies have finally learned to play by the rules, The Cumberland Clowns, and apparently the GMA Goofballs have not. Cumberland is well known for looking the other way at violations of agreements with contractors, totally ignoring green laws, and violation of their ordinances -- just so long as the money keeps rolling in...and it will as long as the developers and contractors continue to play the game. And they never tell anyone who may be affected by their decisions about how it will affect them. When asked, they hide behind "We are not required to...", and "We have no plans at this time...". You can tell they are lying because their lips are moving.

    The GMA Goofballs simply take the word "Authority" far too seriously. They forget they ARE elected. The fact that no other municipalities are represented on their board when they claim "authority" over a very wide area is almost malfeasance. They should have restructured their representation to include folks from all the municipalities they operate in -- at the very least! Without that representation the board should stand up to its responsibilities and tell people the truth. And if their actions affect others negatively they need to bear the responsibility, especially financially. They SHOULD be monitoring the nearby wells for changes in recovery times, and water levels. And any developer involved should be made to pay the costs.

    They are shameless in their wretched excesses.

    The time for free rides for developers must come to an end. These municipalities need to become more responsive and sensitive to their constituents, even when they are not represented by some elected official. But get some guts and start charging the developers for all the tests, and do so without cutting back on what those tests are comprised of. Make sure nearby wells are also monitored.

    Irresponsible government sucks. Playing dodge ball with constituent groups sucks big time.

    Both municipalities owe these constituents an apology and the action steps necessary to make good what they should have done automatically in the first place.

    Then they need an attitude readjustment. YOU FOLKS WORK FOR THE TAXPAYERS. AND DON'T FORGET IT. The Developers are your customers, but the taxpayers are your constituents.


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    Anonymous said...

    While I understand the worry that people have over their wells running dry, I'm not following the logic that this entitles Cumberland Township residents to representation on GMA's board. GMA has a contract with a Cumberland Township resident to buy water. If it was an oil well leased to Exxon instead of a water well leased to GMA, would that somehow entitle Cumberland Township residents to a seat on the board of directors of Exxon? Of course not. So what's the difference?

    GettysBLOG said...

    First off, the Exxon analogy is not applicable as Exxon is not a governmental entity.

    That said, suppose you live outside of Arendtsville, and the GMA decided to construct a sewage treatment plant along your back border. You have no idea this is going on. One day, the excavating machines show up and start moving earth around.

    If you're normal, you get heatedly upset becuse the beautiful woods 100 feet from your back door are being demolished and you don't know why. You go to your township building and they shrug and suggest you go ask GMA, but tell you nothing else.

    So you wait for the next GMA meeting and you demand an answer as to what has been going in your back yard for the past month. They shrug, and tell you it's going to be a Sewage Treatment Facility. Stunned, you sit there trying to take it all in. Then it dawns on you that your prevailing winds come from what used to be beautiful woods and will soon be a sewage plant.

    You want to know who picked the spot, why it is necessary, who authorized the construction and of course, the expenditure of tax payer funds, and most of all, why weren't you part of the decision making process, or at least notified of the planning for the project. You might have been able to do a quick sell of the house and get out before its value drops by 50% or more. Not any more.

    What you are never told is that John Doe, who is developing that old farm a mile up the road, was required to provide a sewage treatment facility for that development. Your township supervisors told him that. So he requested that GMA pick a site. So GMA does. The developer, who will make millions of dollars on the development of that old farm, pays for the new plant, partly, and GMA pays for part of it. But the money the Developer uses to pay for it comes in part through grants from the State Department of Environmental Resources, the State Economic Development Corporation, and the Pennsylvania Department of State business grants. In other words, you and I paid for his sewage treatment plant, so that he can earn millions of dollars.

    You are not a happy camper. Further, neither the Township you live in, nor the GMA offer you any remedies. The only good news is the next time your home gets tax-assessed, its value will be much lower and your taxes will go down.

    There is your analogy to what has happened here. People who have no connection with the municipality where you live are making decisions on issues like this, and the drilling of test wells for new development happens every day in Adams County. And not only do you have no say, you have no remedy.

    I suppose that situation meets with your approval, however.


    Anonymous said...

    To say the Exxon analogy isn't applicable because Exxon isn't a government entity is making a distinction without a difference. GMA's relationship to the residents of Cumberland Township is that of provider to customers, not governmental entity to constituents. To borrower your analogy, GMA is like the developer, buying up resources, and the Cumberland Township resident who sold water to GMA is like the farmer, selling off those resources. So who is supposed to be looking out for the interests of Cumberland Township residents? That would be the elected officials, the Cumberland Township Supervisors. They can, if they wish, create their own water authority and buy up water from residents, just like GMA. They created a sewer authority, so why stop there? The real issue here is the allocation of natural resources, and this is the free enterprise system at its best, or worst, depending on your point of view.

    GettysBLOG said...

    The fallacy in your argument is that governmental entities are not supposed to be free enterprise, profit making businesses. They are governmental bodies, and therefore accountable to the tax payers and voters. This authority is not so responsbile.

    To make the process correct, the County should create the Municipal Authority and have the board elected.

    Gettysburg Borough can have its own authority as long as they do not go outside the borough without an agreement in place with the County authority and the township authority...as long as the locals are well and properly notified in each instance and given an opportunity to seek recourse.

    In all cases, the cost of such wells as this should be fully borne by the developer, and those costs must include measurment of the effect of the well on local resource wells.

    This is not, and must not remain in place.

    GettysBLOG said...

    In addition, the principle is simple, and one of the basic principles that brought about our nation's founding...the operaions of a government without representation is tyranny.


    denver real estate said...

    The principle is simple. To make the process correct, the County should create the Municipal Authority and have the board elected.