Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, February 13, 2015

Jaw-dropper at PMUA reorg meeting

An example of a pumping station, including views of the
exterior, the pump chamber and the electrical control panel.
(Image from SSWM.)

There was one jaw-dropping item on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) reorganization agenda this past Tuesday evening -- at least jaw-dropping to me.

While the newly organized board took a pass on the clutch of professional services contracts for now, a resolution to award a contract for pumping station maintenance and repair passed unanimously.

Pumping stations are used to help control the flow of sewage towards a sewage treatment plant. (You can learn more from an excellent article on the Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management website here.) Plainfield's sewage system leads from the east to the west, where it flows into the PARSA-supervised portion of the regional sewage system.

Plainfielders with long memories will recall that before the establishment of the PMUA and its improvements to the sewer system, residents in the area of Woodmere Place and Leland Avenue regularly had their basements flooded with backed up sewage every time it rained. I often heard the blame placed on problems with a nearby pumping station.

Many will also recall that a number of years ago, an enhanced public parking area was developed on Myrtle Avenue adjacent to the Rock Avenue ballfields as part of an upgrade of the pumping station located in the area.

What surprised me was that PMUA Executive Director Dan Williamson explained the need for the contract -- which is not to exceed the Authority's $36,000 bid threshold -- by saying that the PMUA had no staff capable of maintaining or repairing the pumping stations.

It seems to me that pumping stations are pretty near to the very core of the PMUA's operations and not having personnel trained to repair and maintain these essential units -- after being in business twenty years -- is a cause for concern.

Sort of like saying that sharpening the pencils for an office needed to be outsourced because there was no one on staff who could handle the job?

More homework for the Commissioners, I suggest.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Please, do not encourage the PMUA to take on more staff. First review what the outside maintenance contracts have cost over the 18 years and see how that measures up against the cost of maintaining a skilled technician. The PMUA currently has as many departments as General Motors. They have an house attorney, purchasing department, director of human services , finance department, billing department, etc. And in addition a platoon of consultants to provide additional support in all these areas. A private company in the competitive world doing $23,000,000 in annual sales would be bankrupt if they staffed themselves in this manner. It appears the PMUA had a bottom line of about $800,000 in 2014, or 3% "profit". This is not a comfortable margin and not what we might expect given all the hype regarding the vast amount of business they have acquired from contracts with neighboring communities. Bill Kruse

Anonymous said...

The pumping station at Rock and Myrtle was fixed after the residents made complaints of smell to Union County Environmental Office.