The City of Lebanon Authority (COLA) published an open letter on April 5 clarifying that its 2023 price increase was 3 percent, as opposed to the 10 percent previously suggested at Cornwall Borough Council meetings.

Cornwall increased its water and sewer rates by 10 percent in 2023, citing COLA increases as the reason for the rise.

In the COLA letter, the water authority chided the borough for implying that the COLA increase was also 10%, calling it an “erroneous figure,” which was later repeated by the Daily News.

Following the COLA increase, the borough has been looking into purchasing the Open Pit from Elizabethtown to supply the borough with water. In March, Cornwall hired a hydrogeologist for $7,800 to test possible well locations around the Open Pit.

Read More: Cornwall in talks with Elizabethtown to purchase the Open Pit water supply

Regarding the discrepancy, council vice president Bruce Conrad said that in the mid-2022, COLA had communicated to the borough that rate increases would range from 5 to 10 percent, so the borough had planned for a 10 percent increase.

This was echoed by council president Bruce Harris at Monday’s meeting.

“COLA had told us to expect an increase of between 5 and 10 percent, so our water and sewer administrator made up the budget figuring the increase would be 10 percent to be on the safe side,” said Harris. “It went up more than what COLA increased the cost to us.

“Hopefully that gives us a little bit more of a cushion if they increase the rate in the next year or two.”

However, Jon Beers of COLA said that they had told Cornwall to plan on 5 percent increases to both water and sewer, and provided LebTown with an email exchange with Cornwall’s director of water and sewer, Barb Henry, from last October.

In his email Oct. 11, 2022, Beers said in response to Henry’s inquiry about possible rate increases, “Not sure yet, but if I was you, I would plan on a 5% increase to both.”

Beers also said that since half of Cornwall’s water budget is buying water and half is its distribution, only half of COLA’s water increase is passed onto Cornwall residents.

Since the 2023 price increase was 3 percent, Cornwall’s residents would only be passed on a 1.5 percent increase, Beers said.

Beers also questioned the economics of the borough acquiring its own water supply.

“If Cornwall can successfully and economically develop the open pit into a drinking water supply, then that is terrific,” said Beers in an email to LebTown. “But at first blush, it sounds very expensive.”

Beers said that Elizabethtown does not use the water directly for its water supply, and instead uses the water to makeup their use of treated sewer water to supply the Lancaster trash-to-energy facility and supplement that water loss to the Susquehanna River.

“People think Etown bought a good water supply in our backyard,” said Beers. “Not true. Etown infrequently has to pump water from the open pit to Conewago Creek in Mt. Gretna to Etown’s watershed.”

Conrad has not responded to additional requests for comment.

According to minutes from a Elizabethtown Area Water Authority (EAWA) board workshop meeting held in February, EAWA’s primary concern with Cornwall’s possible use of the quarry as a drinking water source is whether proposed withdraw of water would impact the ability of the quarry to meet EAWA’s and Elizabethtown Borough’s requirements without negatively impacting the water supply.

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Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.

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