Paterson Top Stories

Paterson's Utilities Authority On Verge of Hiring Its First Director; Bigger Role Seen for Little Agency

MUA offices near the Great Falls

PATERSON, NJ – The Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority plans to hire its first executive director under a $360,200 budget that received preliminary approval on Monday.

Creating the executive director’s position is part of Mayor Jeffrey Jones’ administration’s plan to craft a bigger role for the municipal utilities authority (MUA), an agency whose primary purpose over the years has been to collect payments from the private company that operates the city-owned hydroelectric plant at the Great Falls.

Under Jones, the MUA is planning to sell bottled water and may enter the solar energy business. Last year, the agency sponsored series of jazz concerts at the Great Falls – something it plans to do again in 2012 – and started making contributions to community groups, a move that became controversial because there was no formal process for distributing the funds.

Sign Up for E-News

Jones said he wants to retain an expert to examine the hydroelectric plant contract with Algonquin Power Systems of Toronto to determine whether the city has been getting the best deal possible.

“Someone has to be there day-to-day to run this,’’ said Jones.

The utilities authority has received about 10 applications for the director’s job, which would pay between $50,000 and $60,000, said the MUA’s Chairman Erik Lowe. The field has been narrowed down to two people and a decision likely will be made within a month, officials said.

Jones said he has met with both applicants. Officials would not divulge their names, but the mayor said neither is from Paterson. “We were looking for someone who knows water,’’ said Jones, explaining that the agency conducted a search for people with expertise in issues involving a utilities authority.

“This is all being done for us to become a fully operating utilities authority,’’ said Lowe.

Several city officials are somewhat skeptical about the agency’s plans to bring on an executive director.

“To do what?’’ asked City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris. “I would be supportive of any authority activities that have a positive return for the City of Paterson taxpayers, but I would have to see a plan.’’

“I don’t see the urgency in hiring an executive director unless they have an objective that can only be met if they have an executive director,’’ said Councilman Andre Sayegh, chairman of the committee that oversees statutory agencies.

Some Patersonians have questioned the need for the MUA and have suggested the agency’s functions be folded into city government.  Morris said he would support a “forensic audit of the finances” of all city agencies “to see if the functions benefit the city.’’

Under its proposed 2012 budget, the MUA expects to receive $360,200 in revenue - $167,200 from Algonquin, $180,000 from a state historic trust grant and $13,000 in interest payments. Meanwhile, the agency budget projects it will spend $265,000 in 2012 - $117,000 on administrative costs and $148,000 on services.

The budget does not provide a breakdown of those expenses. In addition to the executive director, the agency also plans to retain a $35,000 water consultant this year and make another $30,000 in community contributions, Lowe said.

In 2011, the MUA had a $2,000 per month project manager, Frank Blesso, on the payroll. He is no longer an agency employee. The authority in 2011 also paid $2,000 per month to its law firm, Hackensack-based Pashman Stein.

The state Department of Community Affairs is currently reviewing the MUA’s budget and must approve it before the agency can adopt it. At its meeting on Monday, the MUA did not make copies of the budget available to the public. Officials at the meeting said anyone requesting a copy of the budget would have to file an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.

After protested, pointing out that it is common practice among local governments in New Jersey to provide budget copies without the delay of an OPRA request, the agency allowed a reporter to review the budget at its offices at 72 McBride Avenue Extension.

The agency’s attorney, Bruce Ackerman, said anyone wanting a "personal copy" of the budget would have to pay a fee for the copying costs. State law does not require the agency to incur that expense, he said. Paterson’s city government and its school district provided the media with copies of their budgets without charging fees, a practice common among New Jersey government entities.

The MUA has not yet scheduled the adoption of its budget. Its meetings are held on the second Monday of every month at 6 pm.

Jones made it clear he had plans to expand the MUA’s role soon after he became mayor. He appointed as commissioners his chief of staff, Charles Pettiford, and his campaign manager, Shavonda Sumter, who has since been elected to the state Assembly. Lowe, a friend and ally of Jones, already had been serving on the authority as a commissioner.

Jones described his approach toward the utilities authority. “You’re generating electricity with your water, what else can you do with your water?” Jones said. “They found out they can sell water. Now that’s what I’m talking about.’’

The bottled water, which would feature a Great Falls logo, would not actually come from the Passaic River, but from an out-of-state spring. Jones unveiled the Great Falls water idea at his State of the City address last June, but sales have not yet begun.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Mon, May 28, 1:00 PM

Roberto Clemente Park, Paterson

Memorial Day Celebration

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, June 2, 8:30 AM

LaNeves Restaurant, Haledon

2018 Parent Conference & Breakfast


Clara Maass Medical Center offers Life-Saving Narcan Training Sessions

May 25, 2018

Belleville, NJ – In response to a national call from the Surgeon General of the United States emphasizing the importance of Narcan, a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, the Center of Excellence for Latino Health at Clara Maass Medical Center will host training sessions in May and June to educate the community on the use of Opioids. The ...

Free Archery Classes

Archery is one of the world's oldest sports, and you can enjoy free classes hosted by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Rutgers 4-H Cooperative Extension of Passaic County. From 2pm-4pm on June 2nd, June 16th, July 7th, and July 21st, people of all ages are welcome to take free archery classes at the Great Meadow in Garret Mountain Reservation, located at 8 Mountain Ave ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.


Q. When did you join

I joined in September, ...

Who Let the Dogs Out? Passaic County K-9 Unit Wows Children and Seniors

May 24, 2018

TOTOWA, NJ- With schoolchildren, senior citizens, and law enforcement all in one room any politician would have been thrilled to take part in Thursday’s cross generational event in Totowa that featured a reading of children’s book “Roscoe the K-9 Cop,” authored by Kristen Sondej, and several members of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 ...

Vehicular Homicide Charges for Driver of Paramus School Bus

May 24, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The driver of a school bus involved in a crash on Route 80 last week that killed two people faces two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide/death by auto, it was announced today.

The driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park, attempted to make an illegal U-Turn on the highway in an attempt to find his way to Waterloo Village, the planned destination of the bus that was ...

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver Testimony on Proposal to Divert Affordable Housing Funds

PATERSON, NJ- TAPinto Paterson earlier reported on the response of local community leaders and activists on a proposal by Governor Phil Murphy to divert $46 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) which they wrote in a letter signed by representatives of over 100 groups statewide is “legally dedicated to the creation of affordable homes for lower income ...

The Elections are Over, Now it's Time to Collaborate!

May 21, 2018

For much of the past six months Paterson’s focus has been on the races for mayor and council, and rightly so. The elected officials that serve the nearly 150,000 residents of our city have an enormous responsibility, their actions dictating not just success of our community, but the way our City is perceived.

The election is now behind us, and we congratulate all who took part in the ...