Plymouth Township’s Solicitor Warns of Selling Sewer System to Private Operator

As we reported last week, Plymouth Township’s Council is considering options to raise funds to pay for the renovations needed the township building off Belvoir Road (you can see the presentation here).

While doing some research, we came across this article on the website of Rudolph Clarke, the law firm of Michael Clarke, the solicitor for Plymouth Township’s Council. In the article, Clarke and fellow attorney Lauren Gallagher, stress how they helped prevent the sewer in West Conshohocken from being sold to a private company. West Conshy’s sewer system was sold to the Conshohocken sewer authority, not a private company like Aqua or American Pennsylvania Water. Their concern is that sewer rates will “significantly increase” and “spiral out of control” under private ownership.

From the article:

Rudolph Clarke Managing Partner Michael Clarke and attorney Lauren Gallagher worked to ensure that a Montgomery County sewer conveyance system remained under municipal ownership.

In guiding the Borough of Conshohocken Authority in its successful bid for the West Conshohocken sewer conveyance system, Mike and Lauren helped prevent significant increases in sewer rates, as is the case when public utilities become privately owned.

“Municipalities see the sale of a sewer system as a quick, easy fix,” Mike said. “No one thinks about it until the rates go up.”

Under Act 12, which was adopted by the state legislature in 2016, rates under a for-profit ownership structure could spiral out of control. Act 12 allows private companies to pay the purchase price equal to the fair market value of the asset and include the appraisal value in the rate base. Prior to Act 12 adoption, purchasers instead incorporated the depreciated cost in the rate.

Did everyone catch this quote from the article?

“Municipalities see the sale of a sewer system as a quick, easy fix,” Mike said. “No one thinks about it until the rates go up.”

We are not sure if Clarke is involved in the process Plymouth Township’s Council is undertaking to explore funding options for the renovations. There were two other attorneys at the presentation we attended.

We emailed every member of Plymouth Township’s Council asking if Clarke is representing the township in this matter and why it needed outside counsel and did not receive a response back. Clarke may have had to recuse himself because his firm represents a potential buyer (for example the Conshohocken Sewer Authority).


More to come.