Friday, February 17, 2017

News From PMUA

New commissioners, new staff uniforms and a new footing with city officials were highlights of Thursday's Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority meeting.
Marleen Powell and Miguel Edghill take their oaths of office.
Pat Van Slyke takes her oath of office.
The City Council just approved the three new commissioners Monday and they took part Thursday in the 2017 annual reorganization. The board chose Henry Robinson as chairman for the year, Michelle Graham-Lyons as vice-chair, Miguel Edghill as treasurer and Robin Bright as secretary.
In his report to the board, Executive Director Daniel Mejias called attention to new uniforms for PMUA workers. The reflective stripes are an important feature, he said, as workers may be out at any hour of the day or night. He said he also wanted a distinctive, identifying outfit for PMUA personnel, noting UPS "brown" as an instantly recognizable example of a uniform.

Mejias said he met with Oren Dabney, the city's new director of Public Works & Urban Development, and they discussed ways to address "public confusion" over roles of the city and authority on tasks such as tree-trimming and street sweeping, which the city performs but which many residents believe to be a PMUA responsibility. He said he also discussed ways to address illegal dumping and a new requirement for businesses to have a "trade waste license" posted, showing they have a trash removal contract with PMUA or another entity.

Regarding grease traps, he said the PMUA can't levy fines but the city Health Division can.  And when it comes to abatement (cleanup of dumping and such), the PMUA is responsible only after being instructed by the city to take action.

Mejias announced a new superintendent of solid waste, Larry Chambers, who was promoted from within the organization after the former superintendent had to step down due to medical issues. Mejias said it is a goal of the authority to promote from within whenever possible.

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp visited PMUA headquarters and the Rock Avenue transfer station to speak to members of the authority on his goals and visions for the city and how the authority can play a major role, Mejias said, and also to dispel rumors of the mayor wanting to shut down the authority.

Robinson said the mayor spoke very highly of the PMUA and wanted to partner with it. He noted in the past the city and PMUA had not had a strong relationship, but said the mayor explained he wanted to make it "more .of a shining star than it already is."

In other comments, Mejias noted that former Commissioner Carol Brokaw was appointed to the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority's finance board. PARSA conveys sewage from several Central Jersey municipalities to the Middlesex County Utilities Authority and charges each one for its service. Mejias said PMUA "will now have a voice on the board" of PARSA.

Another bit of news is an agreement between PMUA and the Salvation Army to have drop boxes at the transfer station where Plainfield residents can drop donations instead of having them go into landfills.
Mejias said PMUA partners with the Salvation Army for bike giveaways and for the Halloween "Trunk or Treat" event.

My visit to PMUA headquarters Thursday allowed me to take a photo of a memorial created to honor Eric C. Watson. the authority's original executive director, who served from 1995 to 2011. He came to the PMUA after serving as director of Public Works & Urban Development in the administration of former Mayor Mark Fury and returned to the role in September 2014. He passed away unexpectedly on July 17, 2016. 



  1. All smoke and mirrors. No mention of David Ervin being back with PMUA . Why is that such a big secret. PMUA takes the ratepayers for a bunch of suckers.

  2. Well at least I now know why the PMUA workers don't pick up the trash that spills from the carts.

  3. During the period from 2008 to about 2011, triggered by a Draconian increase in PMUA rates, there was a public outcry. The effort resulted in a campaign to "Opt out", i.e. for property owners to cancel their PMUA household trash collection subscription and have it performed by a private Hauler. I think that this effort, more than abundant oral protestations lead to reforms. What surfaced was that the Commissioners were receiving massive illegal compensation. Their compensation was capped at $4500 per year. However, in blatant defiance of this limitation they voted themselves a complete package of benefits tantamount to that which would be received by a fulltime Municipal employee; FAMILY medical coverage, including eye, ear, dental and disability insurance. The cost to the public ranged from about $15,000 to $20,000 per year per Commissioner depending on his age and family, circumstances, this in addition to his $4500 annual direct compensation. On reviewing the direct compensation file it was discovered that some of the Commissioners were occasionally awarded cash bonuses at year end in further violation of the Statute. Then there were the perks. In 2007 the entire Board of Commissioners together with a gaggle of "Senior employees" attended no less than 5 "Educational Conferences" at various locations around the country; Oaklnad California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Atlantic City, NJ.
    ( nice to spend some bucks at home ) etc. The benefits to the PMUA Organization from the teachings they received at these seminars remains obscure. In 2008 the employee rolls increased from approximately 130 to over 180 people. As a result of the public outcry all of these outrages have been eliminated. The thing to remember is that the initiative was driven by forces without not within. It seems appropriate to commend Ms. Brokaw. I was present on the infamous night when the vote was conducted and the indefensible Million Dollar award made to the "Retirees". It was the high water mark of Ms. Brokaw's service. She voted: No. Ms Brokaw was a voice of moderation. She asked penetrating questions and while she never fomented a revolution it was never the less comforting to listen to her reasoned comments. It does not appear that any Commissioner since inception has "gotten under the sheets". I doubt if most of them ever read the Interlocal Agreement, which is not easy reading. I further doubt that those who have read it totally understood it. Had they understood it then why have they not attempted to correct the inappropriate manner in which it is being administered. Has any Commissioner ever gotten up at 3:00 AM and ridden on a truck for a shift with a crew? Has any Commissioner ever spent a day at Rock Avenue observing the operation? Has any Commissioner ever personally audited the Subcontractor Agreements and payments? When I did this in 2009 I found that no fewer than 5 Realtors had been paid as Consultants. in the order of $10,000 each. For what? No Real Estate was sold or purchased? There were, from memory, 5 attorneys retained for various matters. A lot of law. Whether these questionable policies have been corrected I don't know. Do the Commissioners know? If the Commissioners think their mission is to go to a meeting once or twice a month and perfunctorily rubber stamp, and occasionally provide a few inane comments, on what management sticks under their noses, is the scope of their obligation, then we are not well represented. Bill Kruse

    1. Bill, it’s very disrespectful of you to assume that the present commissioners haven’t read or wouldn’t understand the Inter-local Agreement, trust me, it’s not Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I keep a copy of it on me along with the bi-laws. I’ve read both thoroughly more than once,and what I didn’t understand I questioned. No the Authority is not a perfectly run organization, as with any business, it’s a constantly evolving business that strives to give the best service at the most affordable cost while protecting our environment. You need not worry as we have measures in place to safeguard against repeating any past mistakes. Bill I have yet to see you at a meeting so for you to assume this group of commissions are only there to rubber stamp is an unfair assumption. As far as David Irwin being back,it’s not a secret and if people attended the meetings they would know this. He’s back as a consultant only, if needed. There was a vote taken, that was 3 to 2 in favor and so he’s back. He does have a wealth of knowledge concerning the Authority and the commissioners are intelligent enough to know what information is of value. A lot has changed since the days of the big payout and you would be surprise how hard we work to make the authority an asset to the residents of Plainfield. I haven’t rode the truck YET but plan to. Yes most of us have visited the transfer station to learn the operation. I think you would be surprise and amaze of what this group of commissions know. No digs here, but I see you neglected to mention one of the biggest recipients of the illegal benefits is currently running for mayor.

    2. Anonymous, you are just full of it, even given the resolution of some of the issues. If you actually read the Inter-Local Agreement you would know better. The agency remains tied to a vision of transparency that is pitiful.

    3. If you read my blog you will see that I acknowledge that most of the outrageous practices of the past have been corrected. The fact that Reverend Brown is running for Mayor is irrelevant to my comments. That is another matter entirely. Why do you mention it? As to the matter of disrespect I am encouraged that you have not only read but understand the Interlocal Agreement. Since 2007 it has been repeatedly and articulately asked of the PMUA Commissioners, their Attorney, the PMUA independent Auditor, the PMUA Engineering Consultant, and City Council why the flow of money does not conform to the provisions of the Agreement? Given your understanding I look forward to your explanation. As to attending the meetings I stopped because its useless. I have asked your Auditor, your Attorney, your Engineering Consultant and the PMUA Board of Commissioners, as well as filing an OPRA. The response to the OPRA was a lengthy legal opinion which
      purported that the internal deliberations of the organization are not subject to OPRA requests. The reason it is a dark secret is that if the Shared Service and Household charges were honestly presented it would reflect that the Shared Service fee is vastly inflated. The reason for this is that the public can opt of the Household collection but not opt out of the Shared Service. If the appropriate weight were given to these components the Household fee would dramatically increase, the Public would opt out and flee to private haulers. The PMUA would be in serious financial condition. Said another way the PMUA cannot operate anywhere near as efficiently as a private entity. You might also note that while I have not attended the meetings that on numerous occasions I have submitted OPRA's. The responses have been prompt and courteous other than regarding the fee analysis. Thank you. I look forward to your explanation regarding the money flow and the figures which are the basis for the amounts of the Household and Shared charges are derived. Is Mr. Ervin reemployed? If so what is his position? Bill Kruse

  4. What was Rev. Tracey Brown's role on that infamous night?

    1. She was absent. When subsequently asked how she would have voted, after a prolonged reflection, she said she would have voted against it. During the delay public opinion raged against the award. Whether her belated statement was influenced by the fact that the vote was a fait accompli and it was prudent to ride the wave of popular sentiment, or it was truthful, only Reverend Brown can answer.

    2. Perhaps that was why she wasn't there. And she is not the only one who knows whether she is truthful. What's that saying? The truth shall come in the light.

  5. You are so Right ! Those Republicans are at it again !

  6. I believe if my memory serves correctly Rev. Brown was absent because of complications from major surgery.However, I don't know how she would have voted, and neither do any of you.