Three MUA board members quit

| 23 Feb 2012 | 12:40

WEST MILFORD - Three members of the West Milford Municipal Utilities Authority abruptly quit last week, leaving the board without a quorum and the authority unable to conduct business.

The township council has received two applications for the volunteer positions and appointed those new members Wednesday night.

Carol Hardy and Louis Monaco were unanimously approved by the council.

Hardy, who lives in the Awosting section of Hewitt and is an MUA user, said she is applying for the MUA Commission because there are many issues with the MUA and she feels she can help. She said the current structure needs objective legal counsel and this is an opportunity for major reorganization of the debt. She said the MUA needed a "new start" with the help of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).

Monaco, who lives in Bald Eagle Village, is a regular at the MUA meetings since last April. He has closely followed the utility, submitting Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests for minutes and other information.

"I've submitted several OPRA requests to find out what's going on and where our money is going," Monaco told the council.

He said he is concerned with the resignations of the commissioners.

"I'm concerned with who is going to supervise the management," he added.

With no quorum for the MUA, Monaco said everything will be done behind closed doors. He said the resignations after last Tuesday's meeting by Chairman Phil Pirro, Sal Schimmenti and David Hiester "certainly wasn't professional."

"I have a lot of concern with how it was done," said Monaco. "There was no concern for the MUA users. They're just dumping everything, bailing a sinking ship."

Letters of resignation In a letter dated Feb. 15, Kelly Love, administrator of the MUA, advised the mayor and council of the resignations that came at the workshop meeting the night before.

"The West Milford MUA is now in a precarious situation as it only has two active board members and therefore no regular business can be conducted due to the absence of a quorum," Love said.

In his letter of resignation, Schimmenti, who also served as the treasurer, blamed politics for his decision.

"The mayor and certain acquaintances of hers attacked my family, friends and me personally and professionally," said Schimmenti. "It is very unfortunate that the mayor was chosen again as a so called town leader. The voters have made their choice."

Pirro, too, pointed to last November's election results where Bieri soundly defeated her Republican opponent, Councilman Joe Smolinski. In his letter he said "The voters and apparently the users of the WMMUA have spoken this past Election Day."

Pirro said in his letter that the council "must now let the mayor appoint new MUA board members that will be fully accountable to the users and find board members that will reduce costs, improve management and serve the MUA users properly as she so states in the papers."

It is the council that appoints the MUA commission.

Alternate member David L. Hiester also resigned after eight months on the board.

This leaves just two members left. Former Chairman Carmen Scangarello did not seek reappointment earlier this year and a seat was already open. Five members make up the board, along with two alternates. Three are needed for a quorum.

The MUA was one of the issues in the mayoral election. Last year, Bieri made public a letter from the state DEP which slammed the MUA for its mismanagement. The DEP said the health of MUA users was at stake.

Mayor and council respond In a written response to the resignations, Bieri said she is "somewhat ecstatic and relieved" about the resignations.

"It would appear that the outcry from our residents and our joint persistence has finally made an impact," said Bieri. "This provides a wonderful opportunity to put the MUA under capable management."

Smolinski said he was "shocked" that only two people stepped forward for the MUA positions, although he wasn't surprised.

"In the past, MUA members got pretty well beat up," he added. "The new members have my support. It's a huge responsibility."

Councilwoman CarlLa Horton said she would like to get residents to send in their resumes and coordinate the talents of the people appointed including those with a strong finance background, regulatory affairs experience, and engineering.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the MUA should contact the clerk's office at town hall. All volunteers must complete a Citizen Leadership Form before being considered. The forms can be gotten on line at www.westmilford. org, or at the clerk's office.

Editor's note: The full text of the mayor's letter regarding the MUA is on page 12.