Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Council, Residents Want PMUA Rates Cut

Never mind that the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority has gone from the days of double-digit increases to no recent rate hikes, City Council members and citizens still want lower rates for sewer and solid waste services.

"They need to be reduced, they need to be reduced, they need to be reduced!" Councilwoman Gloria Taylor chanted to make the point Monday when PMUA officials met with the governing body.

"I can barely pay mine," Taylor said,.

"You really have the spirit of Plainfield ratepayer," resident Thomas Crownover told Taylor in public comment.

Crownover and many others, including then-Councilman Adrian Mapp called for the authority to be disbanded in 2011. Since becoming mayor in 2014, Mapp has managed to fill all seats on the PMUA board of commissioners with his appointees, though the governing body has rejected Crownover several times.

PMUA Executive Director Daniel Mejias named staff reduction, increased outside revenues and close analysis of operations as measures taken to keep rates level during his eight-month tenure. But he also cited adverse changes such as income from recycled cardboard dropping from $150 per ton to $50 as part of the ongoing struggle to stabilize rates.

Mejias said staff has dropped from 171 to 133. By negotiating for health benefits, he said, the authority saw a drop from a 13.9 percent proposed increase to 5 percent to zero. To address a suggestion for shared costs with the city Division of Public Works, the authority is looking into possible sharing of its GIS equipment tracking system. The authority is also now cooperating with the DPW and the Police Division to address the costly nuisance of illegal dumping.

In addition, the authority continues to increase outside revenues by expanding services offered to nearby municipalities.

 Mejias is only the third executive director in the authority's 20-year history. The current director of Public Works & Urban Development, Eric Watson, became the original executive director when the authority was created in 1995. He had held the city title under Mayor Mark Fury and returned to the post in September 2014.

Taylor pointed out the transition, saying, "I have issues," and praising Watson before telling Mejias, "I think he is an expert. Perhaps he is the person you should talk to."

Some of the talk Monday of returning authority responsibilities to the city glossed over the fact that it is an autonomous entity, though Crownover, the executive director of a Metuchen authority, has said dissolving it is not difficult.On Monday, he predicted savings of $3 million if the DPW took over shared services, which is a charge to all property owners for cleanup of parks, municipal buildings and other public areas.

Another factor in replacing the authority with city Public Works would be how to handle solid waste collection. Prior to the inception of the PMUA, residents made their own arrangements with private carters. The city would fall heir to the responsibility for fleet maintenance and replacement if it took on solid waste collection, but property owners might see an advantage in solid waste and sewer tax write-offs.

Although there was plenty of talk about how much better other entities handle solid waste and sewer services, the joint meeting ended as it began, with Council President Cory Storch holding out hopes for further cooperation between the city and the authority on mutual concerns. Another meeting will be scheduled in coming months.



  1. That meeting was all smoke and mirrors. They only asked five questions of pmua. And Taylor's call for staff reductions but what staff? Will it be management or the frontline workers who always the brunt of any change.

  2. Note to PMUA- We like it that you're willing to discuss cost sharing initiatives with the City administration, and we like it that you give a second chance to ex-offenders and offer a paid summer intern program to Plainfield youth. It's a good thing to promote from within and give greater responsibility to those who want to move up in the organization.

    But we don't like it when you dance around questions by providing broad generalizations and no real numbers to support the high rates charged to customers. We don't like it when a commissioner hints of substantial staff redundancy in the back office. We don't like to hear about years of mismanagement at the Transfer Station, or a lousy vehicle maintenance regimen that resulted in breakdowns and increased costs. Apparently there was lots of administration but faulty administrative oversight. We don't like it that your most senior person is your auditor, who testifies on your behalf and is anything but independent. Your CFO's inability or unwillingness to address questions with reasoned quantifiable analysis doesn't help matters at all.

    PMUA may be unique, but it's not that different that the public should look the other way.

  3. Gloria Taylor not only barely pays her PMUA bill, she DID NOT PAY IT AT ALL for one year. She paid it right before the tax lien posting became public.

    What is particularly galling about her statement is that she pays NO PROPERTY TAXES, because her husband was a disabled vet (which is perfectly legal). But she has the audacity now to say that she can't afford PMUA?
    She is beyond the pale.

  4. Same drumbeat. Nothing substantive accomplished. What is the appropriate word? Irony? Hypocrisy? Councilor Taylor adjures the PMUA for lower rates! Yet she voted to reject Mayor Mapp's well qualified nominees, people who had the enthusiasm, intellect and motivation to get under the sheets and initiate meaningful reform. You can't haveit both ways. The icing on Ms. Taylor's cake was her recommendation to consult with Mr. Watson. Bill Krsue

    1. Taylor is exempt from paying property taxes so her PMUA bill should'nt be a burden

  5. Rate are high, but Taylor makes a lot of money in retirement and refuses to pay city taxes. She does vote down qualified people because she only wants to obstruct Plainfield moving forward. A lot of people would like to make what she does while working full time.

    1. She is exempt from paying property tax due to her late husband's military service.