To the Editor:
A page A28 article in the Dec. 15 Herald, “W. Wildwood Faces Rising Sewer Expenses Due to Stormwater Intrusion,” referenced West Wildwood Commissioner Joseph Segrest, at the Dec. 3 Commission meeting, where he claimed the aged sewer system leaks were causing stormwater infiltration. That claim was made out of ignorance.
Every barrier island in Cape May County has the same storm surge issues, with the same potential for stormwater intrusion into their public sewer systems as West Wildwood! Why, then, is West Wildwood the only municipality expected to increase sewer utility costs to offset anticipated expenses that occur yearly?
West Wildwood’s public sewer utility system infrastructure was totally rebuilt and financed using grant funds and borough bond ordinances over some 12 years, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At that time, every residential property had its sewer connections rebuilt, and all residential connections were sealed to prevent stormwater intrusion. All aged municipal sewer lines and related superstructures were replaced. New manholes were installed, and manhole lids were sealed with gaskets to prevent stormwater intrusion. Local borough bond ordinances, in part, used to replace the sewer system are public record.
The sewer utility issue, now in review, is not difficult to understand, but Segrest fails to understand the underlying problems. The following facts are obvious, and are a matter of public record:
West Wildwood sewer utility customers are billed four times more for sewer usage than neighbor customers in Wildwood, North Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest!
Unlike other municipalities in Cape May County, West Wildwood spends $100,000 of their sewer utility funds yearly to pay non-sewer-related salaries (full or part salary) to every employee in the borough other than police employees!
Seasonal sewer utility customers who use the sewer system for eight to 10 weeks a year, or less, pay full-time sewer customer prices, the same amount as those customers who use the sewer system 52 weeks a year!
West Wildwood is the only municipality in Cape May County that bills sewer utility customers based solely on a structure (house or apartment), unlike all the neighboring Wildwoods that bill their customers using water meter usage!
It was my sincere hope that the present, newly elected West Wildwood administration, that took office in January 2021, would have taken a fresh look at how our town has failed its taxpayers and that they would’ve restructured the budgeting, taxing, and employment practices, as promised in their campaign.
The tax and spend mentality that exists in the borough is something the prior administration had instituted, and it continues to burden taxpayers today!
Mayor Matthew Ksiazek, Commissioner William Banning, and Segrest need not look at what had been done in the sewer utility in the past to correct sewer utility costs because what had been done in the past is indeed questionable, and in my opinion, unethical and likely illegal!
The borough's sewer utility budget does not have mandated State of New Jersey CAP requirements, whereas the borough's operating budget does!
By the mayor and commissioners transferring $100,000 of non-sewer-related employee salaries from the operating budget to the sewer utility budget, they clearly skirted the state's mandated CAP law.
In my opinion, the mayor and commissioners allowing the questionable transfer of funds have allowed them to hire more employees, give raises, and then tax sewer utility customers improperly.
The mayor and commissioners then improperly raise the local purpose tax (property taxes), that is CAP restricted, to hire more police, and give raises, that would have otherwise not been possible if they had not transferred the funds.
The questionable taxing and spending practices, in my opinion, is an outrage, and must be stopped immediately!
The solution to the created dilemma is as follows:
Immediately remove all non-sewer-related employees from the sewer utility budget.
Immediately restructure the sewer utility ordinance to emulate ordinances of the neighboring Wildwoods.
The above will allow for fair and equitable billing to all (seasonal and full-time) sewer utility customers.
- HERBERT FREDERICK