Writer asks how commissioners were picked

“I don’t recall the elected officials describing the qualifications and experience they were looking for in a commissioner.”

I’ve read the recent letters to the editor regarding the Jackson Township Municipal Utilities Authority (JTMUA) with interest. There are several core themes discussed by the authors: political patronage, qualifications of the current commissioners, cost of commissioners’ salaries and benefits, mission of the JTMUA and the future of the JTMUA. As each has a direct impact on the ratepayer and taxpayer, I think it would be wise to look at each.

Political patronage, as mentioned by Michael Reina, and the selection of the current commissioners go hand in hand.

As for cost, I believe each of the current commissioners gets salary and benefits as detailed by Paul Mayerowitz. I believe they also get a credit toward a state pension by serving on the commission. No wonder so many politically connected [people] crave being appointed to these positions.

But should they receive compensation for their service?

Leslie Savage believes they should, because they are responsible for an $11 million budget. May I remind the reader that these commissioners are not elected by the people, they are appointed by your elected representative. By contrast, your elected school board members, who control a $128 million budget, receive no compensation, benefits or pension credits for their service.

Ms. Savage states that you should be thanking the commissioners for their accomplishments. She is right, but, it’s not the current commissioners that deserve the credit, it’s those that were serving as commissioners before. They were the ones being proactive, implementing preventative maintenance of existing infrastructure and planning for growth. They are the unsung heroes that were diligent in the execution of their duties and they had the qualifications to make it happen.

What about qualifications of the current commissioners? Are the current commissioners ratepayers? Do any of the commissioners have conflicts of interest? Are they engineers, lawyers, or have business backgrounds? What was the selection criterion? What will it cost the ratepayers if they have unqualified and inexperienced commissioners? These are the questions the public should be asking their elected officials.

I don’t recall the elected officials describing the qualifications and experience they were looking for in a commissioner. Previous commissioners had business, engineering and legal backgrounds. What are the qualifications of the current commissioners? Doesn’t Bill Allmann, the JTMUA chairman, own a septic company? Is that a qualification or is it considered a conflict of interest?

[The other commissioners] are leading members of the local political clubs. Is that a reasonable qualification for a commissioner? What did the mayor and Township Council find in these people that made their choice so right for the JTMUA? That is the question the taxpayers and ratepayers should ask.

What is the mission of the JTMUA and what is the future of such an entity? The mission should be to provide quality water and sewer services to the ratepayers at the lowest possible cost. The mission should also include a plan for expansion and preventative maintenance of the current infrastructure.

Would Jackson benefit if the agency was dissolved? Clearly Jackson would benefit somewhat by the elimination of several patronage positions, but is that enough? Should the authority be absorbed by the township and would it become problematic and costly like other towns?

These questions would require an objective due diligence study to determine the cost/benefit ratio before such a change could be considered. I would hope that this discussion would involve the taxpayers and ratepayers. I would also look for a more public and transparent appointment process for future commissioners.

Dan Gross