Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PMUA sets new rates for 2012, preps for major changes

PMUA's web 'image' is much more environmentally 'zippy' than its other efforts.
What a difference a few months can make! The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) set its new rates for 2012 Tuesday evening in an atmosphere that was so different from last year's that I had to go back and check out just how testy last year's meeting had been (see my report here).

And I think the credit goes to the Commissioners for their wise choice of Duane Young as Executive Director.

While 15 or 20 mostly angry ratepayers had braved a winter storm for last year's meeting, this year's saw only three residents plus two bloggers (Bernice and myself), despite clear -- if chilly -- weather and plenty of advance notice.

The tone Tuesday was civil and much more relaxed. The Authority's consultants were much better prepared than last year, and had plenty of copies of their PowerPoint presentations available as handouts (hopefully soon to be found on the PMUA website now that they've been adopted).

With a wealth of well-explained detail, questions were relatively few.

Mine on the increase in the 'debt service' line by about $320,000 drew the explanation that the PMUA was moving into leases that left them owning the trucks at the end of the lease and these were being addressed through the debt service line.

One resident who has a sprinklered lawn questioned the fairness of his being billed for water flow at the PSE&G inflow meter rather than some other arrangement.

This question has been raised before (Commissioner Brokaw noted she faces the same issue with topping off her swimming pool each year), and the answer given was that it is the most equitable solution for the vast majority of ratepayers. That seems sensible to me, since most ratepayers are probably sprinkling their lawns manually and therefore have the same situation as the questioner -- though not the high tech.

Seems to me the PMUA could save itself some time if it developed a FAQ sheet on this perennial question. Especially since it could explore the alternatives and why they are not taken: setting up too many small and confusing classes of ratepayers; the impractibility and expense of outfitting all ratepayer units (which equitability would require) with meters at the outflow point into the sanitary sewer system, etc.

Bottom line: The rates were unanimously adopted; Solid waste rates remain the same as in 2011, and sewer rates will be reduced by 2.6% as previously reported (see here).

My ears perked up when Chairman Mitchell read aloud the places at which official notices of the meeting were posted: in addition to Plainfield's Municipal Clerk's office, the notice was posted with the clerks of Fanwood Borough, Scotch Plains Township, and South Plainfield Borough.

I do not recall ever hearing such an extensive list read off before.

Immediately, I was thinking: EXPANSION OF SERVICES?

With the granting by the Division of Local Government Services of a TARIFF (schedule of fees) and the DEP's approval for an increase in daily tonnage at the Transfer Station, the way appears smoothed for the delivery of services to customers outside of Plainfield which was part of the original sales pitch for setting up an Authority in the first place during the term of Mayor Mark Fury in the mid-1990s.

While these moves are obviously needed to expand the PMUA's range, the one other item that would have to be addressed would be the MARKETING of a re-envisioned, re-engineered PMUA.

Time to re-brand the Authority and get a more zippy, environmentally engaged look and logo?

That would certainly help Mr. Young and the Commissioners continue to move the PMUA in a much better direction.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

This is why PMUA Commissioners CANNOT grant a $1.1M payout to former Directors David and Eric they are seeking. These guys are crooks and finally that company is doing what's it's SUPPOSE to have been doing in the FIRST PLACE.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan, Just a few notes about the sprinkling lawn issue.

First - I believe the speaker told Carol Brokow that she had the option of trucking in her water, thereby avoiding using the water.

Also, in other states, the water rate is based on the average of the water usage for the first quarter of the year. So, Jan - March, people do not fill their pools or water their lawns or wash their cars. Therefore, that amount is more fair than current charges.

Also, in other areas, a separate water meter is installed to track water usage for pool filling and lawn watering.

I just think that all the technology is beyond the current PMUA group, and they cannot grasp how this can be done.

Having said that, I too am positively impressed with the new management, and hope that some of the above issues will be resolved fairly.