Business & Finance

PMUA Responds to Plainfield City Council Questions, Concerns

731dff21914241a6d464_IMG_7235.JPG
Daniel Mejias, PMUA Executive Director as he and other executives leave Plainfield City Council meeting Credits: Jennifer Popper
7274c5683d6c937fff04_IMG_7234.JPG
PMUA CFO Duane Young leaves Plainfield City Council meeting Credits: Jennifer Popper
6b305f03afdf1663340b_IMG_7232.JPG
PMUA executives as they leave City Council meeting Credits: Jennifer Popper
42138d9fe538db0ece95_IMG_7233.JPG
PMUA executives as they leave City Council meeting Credits: Jennifer Popper
731dff21914241a6d464_IMG_7235.JPG

PLAINFIELD, NJ - In its Joint Agenda Session on Monday, July 10, the Plainfield City Council pressed Daniel Mejias, Executive Director, and CFO Duane Young of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority for an explanation of its rates for Plainfield residents, and requested a cost analysis between the city and other municipalities it currently services.

President and Councilwoman-at-Large Rebecca Williams asked if the council could get a rate sheet comparing what Plainfield customers pay for recycling services compared to what other municipalities pay.

PMUA executives responded that the borough of Fanwood is the only one they currently service, and it would not be an apples to apples comparison of rates for what Plainfield residents pay versus those in Fanwood.  The rates for recycling are bundled into one rate the residents of Plainfield pay for two times a week solid waste collection, every other week pickup for recycling, and any bulk pickups and other services provided, they said.

Sign Up for E-News

Williams continued her questioning, asking what the recycling rate Fanwood pays is.  The response?  PMUA noted that it was one rate that was negotiated with the borough of Fanwood, and since the town allocates the cost per capita, “we don’t know.”

Councilman Cory Storch said he hopes the commissioners hear that response and are not happy with it. He went on to say that while PMUA workers do a terrific job, with senior managers, consultants and auditors, a financial analysis should be able to be done to draw comparisons.  “It’s not rocket science.  It just takes a little work.  I think the fact that we can’t make these comparisons right now indicates it is a problem, and that you don’t want to discuss it in public.”  

He referenced a report that had been commissioned by the City Council around six years ago that included comparisons with cities of a similar size.  Storch noted that the results showed it was clear that Plainfield rates were much, much higher than those of other cities.  "PMUA should respond to the facts, unravel the financial data, and come up with your view on the comparisons.  I’m a little disappointed that you haven’t provided that data, because we did ask the questions (in advance).”

Williams circled back, once again asking about the rate that Fanwood residents pay for recycling.  The PMUA noted that regardless of other municipalities they may service, Plainfield will still have its fixed rates, and the incremental revenue from other towns would help stabilize the rates here in the city.

Williams continued, saying it would make sense that if the PMUA were going to negotiate with Fanwood, the PMUA would want rates to be competitive with Plainfield, so city residents would not be bearing the brunt of paying those costs for infrastructure and more.  

PMUA representatives said that even without other municipalities, Plainfield would still have the same rate.  By taking on Fanwood, the authority gets additional revenue; asking Fanwood to pay the same or higher rates than Plainfield could result in a lost contract.

"In effect, what you’re saying is that if we’re paying a higher rate than Fanwood, we’re still getting a benefit?” Williams asked.

"Exactly."

Councilman Goode remarked on an old saying about charity starting at home before it spreads abroad, and expressed that he feels like the PMUA should focus on its own residents first.  

But the PMUA responded, "If we didn't have that extra money, it would have to come from somewhere to keep our rates fixed.”  Representatives continued, noting no additional workers or trucks were needed to service Fanwood, that it fit within their everyday collection schedules.  "It’s supplemental income helping to stabilize our rates."

Councilman McRae pressed on, noting if personnel or trucks did not need to be increased, then the money coming from them (Fanwood) should go towards helping to drive the city's costs down.  "You allocate your fixed costs across ALL of your customers."

PMUA personnel then focused on how the authority has stabilized rates for eight years.  Provided that they stay in line with inflation and other rising costs, an executive said, "I think stabilizing is, in fact, a rate reduction."  

Storch added that if the goal is to stabilize rates, he would give the PMUA good grades, but he said when he goes door to door, residents don’t say 'thanks for stabilizing rates,' they ask why rates are so high. "There is a difference in stabilizing rates and reducing the rates to the market value.”  

He continued, "Fanwood is not subsidizing Plainfield; we’re subsidizing Fanwood."

The City Council asked the PMUA to provide data on personnel year over year.  From 2016 to 2017, the PMUA employs ten less positions, down from 144 to 134.  Salaries are down $228K, and benefits are down by $50K.

Storch inquired about the opportunity to allow residents to choose once a week solid waste pickup.  He continued, noting Plainfield could reduce costs, make the city more competitive, and give Economic Development Director Mr. Sanchez the opportunity to tell prospective business partners that you don’t have to pay more to do business in Plainfield.  He asked the commission to explore this. "Instead of being driven by your budget, I urge you to be sensitive to your ratepayers."

Resident Alan Goldstein provided history on the PMUA in the public comment section, calling them opaque by design.  He said that contractually, the utilities authority is required to disclose costs on an annual basis.  

 

The next Joint Agenda Session will take place on Monday, August 14.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

Register Today for Summer Youth Courses Offered at Union County College

June 23, 2018

CRANFORD, NJ – This summer the Office of Continuing Education at Union County College is expanding its course offerings for youth ages 11-18. Classes are taught by NJ-certified teachers and subject matter experts that specialize in delivering high-quality youth programs. Classes begin the week of June 25 and run through August 23.

Classes offered include Introduction to Musical Theater, ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Dear Editor:

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by ...

Murphy Signs Bill Ending Child Marriage Championed by Westfield’s Fraidy Reiss and Unchained at Last

June 23, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday that bars individuals under the age of 18 from marrying or entering a civil union. It was a major win for Fraidy Reiss, founder Westfield-based Unchained At Last, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women and girls in the US to escape or resist arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives.

This makes New Jersey the second ...

SRO'S - ENSEÑANDO POR EJEMPLO

June 17, 2018

Hay un grupo de oficiales de policía que les dan un servicio a nuestra comunidad de una manera notable. Todos los días estos hombres y mujeres se levantan, van al trabajo, y aseguran que nuestros hijos aprendan en un ambiente seguro. Los llamamos Oficiales de Recursos Escolares, pero son mucho más. 

Si llegas a la oficina de los Oficiales de Recursos Escolares en la ...

Empleando Nuestra Juventud 

Querido Plainfield, 

Todos esperan el verano; los días son más calientes y largos, y la madre tierra se pone su mejor vestido mientras las frutas se maduran en el sol y las flores ondean un alegre "hola". La gente comienzan los paseos de la playa o piscina, y las juntas de barbacoa en los patios son necesarios en los fines de semanas.

Aquí en la ciudad de ...

Meet Toran Smith: Union County All Star

June 18, 2018

Plainfield resident, Toran Smith, age 16, has been selected to play on the 2018 Union County underclassmen all star team.  On June 10th, the Union County All-Stars played against the Hudson County All-Stars at Kean University.  Smith played third baseman. 

Smith, a junior at Union County Vo-Tech magnet high school, is a Junior infielder on the Plainfield Cardinals Varsity ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

'Half Time' lights up Paper Mill stage

‘Half Time’ turns the tables on aging in gleeful production

By Liz Keill

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

When the Men Go Off to War by Victoria Kelly

When the Men Go Off to War by Victoria Kelly (Naval Institute Press, 2015)

Victoria Kelly's first published volume of poetry, When the Men Go Off to War, is a wonder in that poems can be written so beautifully about the subject of war. Each poem is a jewel, polished and colorful, glittering with elegant imagery, and rich in emotional wallop. The book, divided into three sections, ...

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...

The Man in Room 306 at the Luna Stage, West Orange, NJ

            The Luna Stage, a Jersey theater gem, chose to revive its 1995 world premiere drama, The Man in Room 306, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Starring Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, this 90 minute production portrays Dr. King in the last hours of his life as he struggles to write a speech for the Poor ...

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, 2017)

 

I wanted to like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins because I had enjoyed her previous novel, The Girl on the Train, which was a suspenseful thriller. However, when I finished reading the first part of the Into the Water, I realized that I had not absorbed anything that was happening in the story. I blamed myself for not paying ...