SELINSGROVE — The borough council on Monday unanimously cast a no-confidence vote in the Eastern Snyder County Regional Authority board and called for all eight members' resignations by the end of the month amid a dispute over a new service contract and a moratorium issued against any new hookups at the wastewater plant.
During the council's public meeting, council member and authority board member Shane Hendricks expressed frustration with his authority board colleagues' unwillingness to renegotiate a service agreement after 18 months of discussions.
The eight-member board led by chairman Michael Dunigan of Shamokin Dam includes two representatives from each of the owner municipalities.
ESCRA is pushing for the signing of a service agreement by the four municipalities - Selinsgrove and Shamokin Dam boroughs and Monroe and Penn townships — in order to obtain a low-interest loan to make more than $10 million in upgrades at the 40-year-old plant on the Isle of Que.
Despite months of discussions and negotiations, Hendricks said, they have not been able to agree on the terms of a new service agreement which ended with the board putting a moratorium in effect at the wastewater treatment plant effective Sept. 30.
At the August ESCRA meeting, Hendricks said, the reason given for issuing the moratorium was to encourage the "public to pressure the elected bodies to sign a service agreement. Publicly ESCRA has stated it is to prevent additional pressure on the system."
He added the authority has approved new connections since the moratorium.
"By resigning (the old agreement) the municipalities will lose bargaining strength for the next 20 years," Hendricks said.
Following the Selinsgrove council no-confidence vote on Monday, Hendricks submitted his resignation from the authority board which he has served on since earlier this year.
Borough solicitor Robert Cravitz said the authority members are appointed for five-year terms and may only be removed from the board for wrongdoing or the authority is dissolved, he said.
Authorities are designed to run independently separate from the municipalities they serve to allow for more flexibility in financing and no governmental restrictions.
In the event the seven other authority board members refuse to resign, Cravitz said the council could authorize him to go to Snyder County Court or ask the authority to transfer the borough's assets to a new authority.
"I'm confident the other municipalities will follow suit," he said.
Shamokin Dam Manager Ed Hovenstine said he doesn't anticipate the council will call for the resignations of their authority board delegates who provide quarterly updates.
"They haven't shown us any reason to get rid of them," he said, adding that even if they do opt to resign, finding replacement members would be a difficult task.
Hovenstine said the dispute over the service agreements should not be linked with the loan for the plant renovations.
"This (renovation) project is very important. We need to look ahead," he said.