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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

PMUA freezes wages for 2014


In a sometimes rambling two-plus-hour meeting, the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority was told by Executive Director Dan Williamson that while there would be no layoffs or furloughs this year (as contrasted to 2013), there would be a wage freeze that would include the agency's executive staff as well as front-line workers.

While there were allusions to controlling expenses, the principal reason for a constrained fiscal situation still seems to be the continuing payout of the $1 million settlement for former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin engineered by Commissioners Malcolm Dunn, Cecil Sanders and Alex Tolliver.

It was noted that the 'approximately 45' employees who have chosen to be represented by Teamsters Local 97 still have no contract, which leaves the Authority with a free hand in regard to wages. (The Teamsters were certified as representing all the blue-collar employees over two years ago -- see here -- and one has to wonder why it is taking so long to negotiate the initial contract.)

Some of the Commissioners remarked several times during the meeting that critics and the public 'just don't understand' the Authority's operations and financial picture. If this is so, whose fault is that?

(Interestingly, Mayor Mapp's Transition Team learned during the course of its work that City staffers create PSAs (public service announcements) for free on behalf of the PMUA, even though the agency has its own public information staff.)

One other perennial topic was touched upon -- comparisons between the PMUA and solid waste management costs in other communities (both those with municipal authorities and those without).

Jeff Bliss, of Lerch Vinci & Higgins, blew smoke by saying that the PMUA offers a 'unique range of services' which makes comparisons with other communities very difficult. This is the same argument he has trotted out at budget time for several years now.

I am unconvinced. This whole matter could be put to rest by developing a comparison chart of all services (and costs) for the PMUA and laying these alongside the same information for other communities. Not a big deal, if you really wanted to get to the bottom of it all.

Unless, of course, the comparisons would give cause to question some of the PMUA's figures.

Of interest to those looking for synergies between various agencies was the resolution renewing a contract with Cartegraph, which the Authority uses to monitor its fleet of vehicles and for real-time Inspections (violations) activity (see the firm's website here).

Would it be fair to ask why the City and the School District don't consider working with the PMUA to develop a shared services agreement based on this firm's technology for managing operations?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Yea, the commissioners say the public doesn't understand.

Coming from that brain trust, I think I feel good about that.