On a windy, chilly and rainy Saturday in October, I traveled to Westville, New Jersey, with a handful of co-workers from Bravo Group. We were canvassing the town on behalf of our client Aqua New Jersey, a company that provides and protects water for communities, about an issue with Westville’s water infrastructure.
Westville is a cute little town — and people take Halloween VERY seriously there. Almost every house was decorated with spiderwebs, pumpkins, mums, witches and ghosts. The main street through town was decorated with scarecrows and wreaths in fall colors.
Although the town looked completely put together for Halloween, its water infrastructure is falling apart.
The aging system that distributes Westville’s water has become a chronic problem. All 23 miles of original pipeline are approaching the end of their 70- to 100-year life span, and the water system is estimated to require more than $10 million in repairs. This would be a huge burden to residents. Local taxes and utility rates would have to increase to pay for infrastructure improvements such as replacing all original pipes, updating valves and fire hydrants, and replacing meters.
With a price tag like that, it’s hard to figure out what the best course is. The borough and the mayor of Westville determined that it is to sell the water system to Aqua, which will provide $8.4 million in initial purchase funds to Westville. Over the next five years, Aqua will implement $3.4 million in upgrades to replace the most vulnerable pipelines.
Because this decision will affect the community as a whole, Aqua’s purchase of Westville’s water system will go to a referendum on Election Day — when residents can support or oppose it.
To do our part, Bravo canvassed the community to gauge awareness of the referendum and the amount of support for it. A handful of people from Bravo had gone to this town before, but this was the first time I went. Without canvassing experience, I didn’t know what to expect.
It wasn’t until I started to go door to door that I realized how influential and meaningful Aqua is to this community. The water system in Westville is in need of serious repairs, and the town’s mayor doesn’t want to put that burden on its residents. Instead, Aqua wants to rescue this little town because everyone deserves to have access to clean and safe drinking water.
In addition, I discovered a newfound respect for canvassers who go door to door in communities not to sell products but to spread awareness about community issues that affect the daily lives of residents. When canvassers have approached my house in the past, I have not given them a chance because I thought they would try to sell me something. However, it turns out it’s much more than that.
Alexandra Blessing | Fall PR Bravo Group Intern, Harrisburg