It looks like being a good Samaritan and providing water to thousands of people in other towns free of charge may be bankrupting the Township of West Milford.
Officials are seeking relief from the problem by requesting that the state’s Council on Mandates recognize the impact of the Highlands Act that designates West Milford as the only municipality that is 100 percent in a preservation zone, and hit with unfunded financial mandates.
A petition is available online at the township website, westmilford.org, where local officials are asking residents to sign the document in order to back its effort to have funding provided to help West Milford.
The petition notes that the unfunded mandates have depleted the township’s financial resources and placed the cost of water protection on the residents of West Milford without any financial support from the state.
The Highlands Act, adopted in 2004, created the Highlands Preservation Area, which includes the total of over 80 square miles of the township.
The unfunded mandates provided by the Act requires West Milford to be steward of land throughout the entire municipality for the sole benefit of protecting water downstream for nearly three million residents of the state, including significant industrial users, the petition notes.
It states the fact that the township does not receive any financial remuneration for the restrictions imposed by the Highlands Act, supporting the argument of this being an unfunded mandate.