Edison, NJ - On Tuesday, Edison voters resoundingly voted in favor of an ordinance requiring the Township to retain ownership and begin the operation, management, control, and maintenance of the Township’s municipal water system. The ordinance also requires the Township to retain the ownership, operation, management, control, and maintenance of the sewer system.
By voting in favor of the Ordinance, voters effectively precluded the Mayor’s proposed water-sewer deal with Suez.
Under Mr. Lankey’s initial proposal, Edison would have entered into a 40 year, $800 million agreement with Suez. Mr. Lankey unveiled his proposal with Suez during his State of Township address in February.
But last week, only a week before Tuesday’s election, Mr. Lankey introduced a pared down version of his initial proposal with Suez. The new deal would have reduced the length of the agreement by 15 years, from 40 years to 25. The revised proposal also included $30 million in funding for Edison’s schools, with the administration stating that those funds will be utilized for air conditioning class rooms and for other school infrastructure needs.
But voters overwhelmingly rejected both proposals, by voting in favor of the Ordinance that was placed as a referendum. While the final vote tallies are not yet certified, according to unofficial vote counts, 8,874 residents voted in favor of the ballot measure, compared to only 1,637 who voted against it.
"My Administration will follow the direction that our voters have charted for Edison’s future. We have already begun making preparations for a new municipal department to operate and maintain the South Edison water system,” Mr. Lankey said in a statement issued after Tuesday's election.
On Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s vote, The Edison Council voted to approve amendments to local ordinances in anticipation of the passage of the referendum. At the Council’s Monday meeting, lawmakers voted in favor of amending various sections of the township code to establish a new department of water and sewer for the township. They also approved a resolution authorizing the firm of Mott MacDonald to provide additional engineering services in connection water and sewer systems in the amount of $45,000.00.
“We’re bringing back the water utility,” said Edison Township Business Administrator Maureen Ruane. While the Township will have a combined department for water and sewer administration, there will be separate budgets for the two operations, Ms. Ruane explained. “There will be a separate water utility for the 12,000 customers that utilize that utility,” she said. “The water will stay separate. All bills, fees, expenses, stay in that water utility.” Under the new ordinance, the to be appointed Director of the Department of Water will have overall responsibility for determining major departmental policies, planning long-and short-range programs, budget preparation, and personnel management. Under the ordinance, the Director must have five years of experience involving managing water distribution and sewer collection systems in New Jersey.
At Monday’s meeting, Ms. Ruane stated that the Administration did not know what staffing levels of the new department will be at this time.