Mayor ecstatic, relieved with MUA resignations

| 23 Feb 2012 | 12:41

    I am somewhat ecstatic and relieved to receive abrupt resignations from three MUA commissioners and to learn that Chairman Scangarello has declined to seek reappointment. Although throughout 2011, the council refused to heed my repeated pleas to replace the MUA commissioners and management, it would appear that the outcry from our residents and our joint persistence has finally made an impact. This provides a wonderful opportunity to put the MUA under capable management!

    These commissioners, professed political allies and friends of the council members who appointed them, have abdicated their responsibilities to protect the health and safety of 1,700 West Milford homes and the township’s overall environmental health. These resignations essentially end the legacy of commissioners that accumulated over 380 DEP violations and nearly $1,500,000 in fines. After having led this agency to this abysmal state, they have now abandoned this community. The DEP violations impact the children, seniors and infirm whose health could have been seriously jeopardized by the inaction of these commissioners during their tenure.

    Make no mistake, these individuals, who blame the DEP, blame my office, and even told residents to shut up, have tendered their resignations to the township council with no regard for the future of the customer base of the MUA. They have not provided any notice period and have left their political allies and personal friends on the township council with no updates, direction, recourse or plan to protect the very citizens they were appointed to represent. They, and by extension those who appointed them, have left their constituents in the lurch in the face of a failing utility that has created an immediate public health concern identified by the state of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

    Let’s not forget that on Feb. 17, 2011, then-council President Joe Smolinski said, “Mr. Scangarello and the committee has turned the historically plagued MUA around, addressed the failing treatment facilities, and has saved the MUA and its users from unnecessary expenses.”

    I urge the township council, specifically those personal friends who made these appointments, to finally put forth an immediate solution to the unimaginable dilemma created by these unprofessional resignations. Let us hope that they will actively work toward fulfilling their statutory obligations and make educated, unbiased appointments to this troubled agency. Let us hope that they understand the urgency and move this process forward with the diligence and expediency it deserves. I urge them to put the health and welfare of our community before their political and personal relationships and to bring forth and appoint qualified, determined and diligent commissioners to serve on the West Milford MUA.

    The bright light in the timing of this mass exodus is that there are two new, no-nonsense, a-political elected officials on the township council. If the council majority heard you, the voters, they will join forces with your newest representatives and this breath of fresh air will result in real change. If they don’t, I have no doubt that Ms. Horton and Ms. Erik will ensure that your voices are heard. This is a new day, a new beginning, and the future looks brighter for the MUA.

    In the meantime I will continue meeting with the DEP and the DCA to strike long-term solutions for this public concern. I suspect the legacy of this management and board will haunt us for years to come as they failed in their responsibility to guard the public health. I will continue to fight to protect the residents and call it like I see it, even if it means that the majority wants to attack me, as long as I achieve the ultimate goal of clean drinking water and proper sewerage treatment.

    Former Councilman Dan Jurkovic repeatedly asserted that I was concerned about this issue since 2007. He was wrong. I have been concerned about the MUA for many more years, but in May 2011 those concerns were elevated to fear for my constituents. I will continue to focus on this issue until we see resolve. However, today marks another major step in the right direction and I thank the users and residents who placed their faith in me to be their voice in cleaning house and protecting their water.

    Mayor Bettina Bieri West Milford