Monday, July 27, 2009

PMUA Topic of Special Meeting

The City Council will meet in a "working session" tonight with PMUA representatives. The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

The "working session" concept was introduced in 2006 by then-Council President Ray Blanco. who called them "working conferences" in a 28-page Rules of Order document he formulated. After Blanco's untimely death in July 2006, the concept was dropped until Council President Rashid Burney brought it back this year. As Blanco envisioned them, the conference meetings were for discussion and formulation of policy, with time set aside for public comment.

Past topics have included public safety and a community-based effort to revitalize the West End. Tonight's discussion is unique in that it involves an autonomous authority created by a City Council vote 15 years ago, but over which the governing body has no direct power. The PMUA's mission is to provide solid waste and sewer services to the city. It is governed by a board of commissioners appointed by the mayor with council advice and consent.

The PMUA holds annual rate hearings as well as an annual reorganization. In 2007 almost all its rates increased, with barely a peep from the public. In 2009, Plaintalker reported on a 20 percent increase in solid waste costs and a 14 percent increase in sewer costs.

As ratepayers received their bills, a backlash began that led to formation of a movement to "Dump PMUA." In a similar but unrelated move, mayoral candidate and Councilman Adrian Mapp called for PMUA operations to be placed back under city control. PMUA Chairwoman Carol Brokaw, who also ran for mayor in the Democratic primary, published an 11-point rebuttal, citing legal issues and many other complications of disbanding the authority.

After a recent meeting of city and authority officials, PMUA changed some of the rules and charges that residents found most disturbing. A lawsuit by DumpPMUA member Philip Charles is ongoing and updates on all concerns are posted on the group's web site. The group is urging attendance at tonight's session.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is JUST Sanitary Sewers [toilets, industrial] not the storm sewers [rain, brooks, rivers]

8:57 AM  

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