A Cape Issues Committee Reviews Lower Township Municipal Utility Authority Controversy

 

NOTE: The Cape May County Herald is offering full coverage of the COVID-19 / coronavirus emergency to all, with no payment required. We are committed to ensuring our readers can make critical decisions for themselves and their families during this ongoing situation. To continue supporting this vital reporting, please consider a digital subscription or contribution. For more coverage, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

VILLAS - The Cape Issues group has watched with interest the controversy concerning the dissolution of the Lower Township MUA. A primary focus of Cape Issues is to encourage efficient use of local government services and to pursue savings of tax dollars where practical. Accordingly, we decided to establish a subcommittee to review the facts and to offer a recommendation to the whole Cape Issues group for input to the public. This outlines the facts as known to date.

A study was concluded and a report was submitted by FORD-SCOTT & Assoc. to Lower Township Mayor & Council May 05, 2014 concluding that the LT MUA could be dissolved and assumed into the Lower Township services with a savings of approximately $1.0 million annually.

There would be administrative and special services cost reductions and all the MUA operating employees would be absorbed into the township’s utility department with no loss of benefits. The administration, the billing & collection would also be absorbed into the existing Township services.

The plan was presented to the NJ Local Finance Board, Division of Local Government Services under the NJ Department of Community Affairs. After presentation of the facts by the LT MUA and Lower Township officials (Pro & Con), the Board voted unanimously in August to support the dissolution of the LT MUA and assumption of obligations by Lower Township.

On September 15, the Lower Township Council voted against the dissolution (3-2); a super majority is required of 4-1 to pass. This meeting and vote results were reported in the Atlantic City Press September 16, “ Lower Township Fails to Muster Votes” (Richard Degener) and the Cape May County Herald May 17 “Township Nixes MUA Dissolution” (Jim McCarty).

The primary issues reviewed were:

• Is there adequate provision for bond holders?

• Is there adequate provision for employee severance obligations?

• Is there sufficient provision for continued services? And,

• Will residents who need assistance in paying the hook-up charges be able to receive assistance if the Municipal Utility Authority is dissolved?

These issues and others were raised and vetted in the two meetings; NJ Local Finance Board and Township Council. (Council meeting minutes are available online and on YouTube.)

The full Cape Issues group will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 7 to review the subcommittee findings of fact. Opposing members of Council have been invited to attend this meeting and offer their comments.

Founded in 2008, Cape Issues is a non-partisan citizens group volunteering their time and applying their experience to address matters of interest to Cape May County’s residents and visitors, emphasizing effective and efficient government operations. A collection of Cape Issues articles may be found at www.CapeMayCountyHerald.com/CapeIssues. If you’d like to support Cape Issues work, contact ahall@cmcherald.com.

Get 'The Wrap', a new way to get the news.

We wrap up the news from the Shore you love, and deliver it to your inbox, weekly.