Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PMUA Task Force efforts introduce new energy into unresolved issue

Ratepayers line up at the mike at Monday night's PMUA Task Force meeting.
A crowd of several hundred Plainfield ratepayers turned out last evening at Washington Community School for the report of the PMUA Task Force that had been commissioned by the City Council.

Working hard and in tight-lipped secrecy over the past several months, the all-volunteer Task Force gathered and presented a tremendous amount of information in the PowerPoint presentation -- which Council President Adrian Mapp said would be posted on the city's website for the public's use.

The Task Force is to be commended for trying to compare Plainfield's solid waste and sewer situations with other communities of similar size and makeup. This search for 'apples to apples' comparisons yielded New Brunswick and Union Township (Union County) as close examples to Plainfield.

This was a good methodology and, had there perhaps been some technical assistance provided by the City, the facts could have been focused more sharply and nailed down conclusively. As it was, the material presented tended to indicate the PMUA was top-heavy with administration and inneficiently organized -- before one even got to the matter of rates.

On the other hand, the use of anecdotal material weakened the overall impact of the report. It is hard to see, with a half million or so ratepayers in the county (and 150,000 or so in the three municipalities focused on) how one person's experience in one (dissimilar) community can throw much real light on the Plainfield situation. Professional assistance could have pruned some of these less than illuminating materials.

The Task Force's summation, however, did not really bring new options to the table.

What was suggested is that the PMUA could either be fixed, dissolved or nothing be done and the situation go along as it has.

The audience was divided -- though plenty applauded the idea of fixing the broken agency and came to the mike to speak in favor of doing so, the majority of the audience seemed to respond most to the idea of dissolving the agency, folding it back into the city and dealing with its excesses in that way.

There was a small but fervent group near the back of the room -- perhaps a dozen or so -- who were vociferous in support of leaving thing stand as they are. It was not clear whether any of these were PMUA employees worried about job security -- thought Council President Mapp stated, and restated, that the 'front line workers' should consider their jobs secure.

One of the biggest applause-getters of the evening came when panel member Liz D'Aversa said the $1 million dollar settlement 'gift' for former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin should be taken back.

The newest commissioners, Malcolm Dunn and Cecil Sanders, came in for their share of criticism for having subverted the entire arbitration process -- which appears to have been going in the PMUA's favor -- by arm-twisting the Commissioners into accepting their $1 million 'settlement' proposal.

The only PMUA Commissioner I spotted in the room was the Rev. Tracey Brown (though I was told Dunn was there at some point, I did not actually see him from where I was parked down front).

Though perhaps a majority of the City Council were favorably disposed now to dissolution, as shown by their remarks, Vera Greaves, who was present, and Councilors Bill Reid and Bridget Rivers (who were not) have formed an implacable opposition to dissolution, meaning there would not be the five votes needed to override any potential veto by the mayor of a dissolution move.

And that is where things stand.

However, I am a great believer in mobilizing people and the energy brought to the project by the Task Force and the response from the community in turning out put a new set of forces into play.

How those will work themselves out may well become apparent during this Spring's political season.

Council President Mapp is the party's designee for the Ward 3 seat and has no organized opponent as of this moment.

PMUA Commissioner Rev. Tracey Brown is the party nominee for the Citywide at-large seat, but she will be facing a seasoned opponent in Veronica "Roni' Taylor, a ten-year veteran of the Board of Education and former Housing Authority commissioner who has racked up impressive vote totals over the years and whose roots go deep in the community.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

Dan so good to have you back. And while I agree the example cited was unnecessary, I believe every PMUA rate payer owes a great deal to the volunteers on that panel. Their work was meticulous and, perhaps more important, dispassionate and independent, two qualities sorely missing in local political discourse.

Anonymous said...

The anecdotal material was minor part of the total presentation and rendered insignificant in light of the overwhelming quantity of authenticated material which displayed that our PMUA grossly overcharges as contrasted with comparable communities.

The City Council is deadlocked, 4 to 3, with regard to the prospect of dissolution. That is the reality. Mr. Green, who could use his influence beneficially, took the microphone and addressed none of the issues. Rather, he advised the audience as to how he is attempting to get taxpayers in other parts of the State to contribute significant sums of money to bolster his failed community. This is reminiscent of his cameo appearance of 3 years ago when he took the microphone at a PMUA inquiry meeting, said he wanted to know what was going on, and promised to "Go all the way to Trenton" to get intervention in order to put things right. After establishing this bold position he promptly left before hearing the comments of the attendees. is apparent we can not look to a deadlocked Council, or to Mr. Green, and certainly not to the Mayor for remediation. There is some hope that the cavalry which is coming from Trenton can initiate some meaningful reform?

What options does that leave? The Charter requires that the PMUA present to the public for review the basis of their rate charges at the annual Rate Hearing. They have presented "budgets", tey have presented "Experts", they have never presented the costs for Shared Services as taken from the account ledgers. My efforts to obtain them have not been successful...Why, they son;t exist. After 6 months of attempting to obtain them I was finally told that the "Experts" who prepare the rate structure for the Commissioners review never submitted a written report. What the experts do is to take the anticipated projected budget and allocate how the rates must be modified, or maintained, to produce revenue to meet the anticipated expenditures. It is inconceivable that what is currently being charged for Shared Services is what Shared Services cost.Therefore. we will insist at the next rate hearing that the figures be produced which justify the Shared Service fee. In the meantime if there is a massive OPT OUT, reducing the revenue, and our prediction that the Shared Service fee can not be validated, is correct, the existence of the PMUA will be unsustainable....unless they sell another gaggle of Bonds.
At some point the Public outrage will become so great there will be a capitulation. Bill Kruse

Anonymous said...

Dunn left before the issue about the 1 mil gift came up. Tracy Brown was at the meeting, then left the gymn when the report started, and then was at the door once the meeting was over.

I think she is such a coward.

Anonymous said...

Ball up Plainfielders! You're getting the shaft so bad it's blocking your eyesight! JUST STOP TURNING YOUR MONEY OVER TO THESE THIEVES! If everybody ALL AT ONCE did not pay their taxes / PMUA tax for a number of months, what do you think would happen? First of all you would get Statewide Media Publicity, and the Fat Cats in Trenton would HAVE to come in and audit everything! If the city had to be dissolved and taken over by the State, how much worse would that really be? Don't be sheeple people! ORGANIZE!!!