MUA Cuts Bottled Water, New Executive Director's Job From its Budget
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 • 12:49pm
PATERSON, NJ – Almost three-quarters of the way into its fiscal year, the Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) has not yet received state approval of its budget.
The authority on Monday night approved several cuts designed to get Trenton’s consent, including the elimination of the new executive director’s position and provisions for the sale of “Great Falls” bottled water.
Those changes put the annual budget at $171,500, less than half of the $360,000 that originally was proposed back in April. MUA attorney Bruce Ackerman said he expects the state will now give its approval.
The agency’s chairman, Erik Lowe, asserted that MUA is not abandoning its plan to hire a director or to market bottled water. Lowe said those items simply were being removed from the budget because they will not happen during the current fiscal year, which ends January 31. Budgets for local governments and agencies undergo review by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
“The DCA has never said we can’t hire an executive director,’’ Lowe said.
Lowe has said that the MUA was looking to hire a director at a salary of between $50,000 and $60,000. But after more than six months of looking, the agency has not picked someone for the job.
Ackerman said that former commissioner, Shavonda Sumter, had led a committee to interview applicants for the position. "There were interviews. At some point in time, the commissioners that were doing the interviews did not have anyone to recommend," said Ackerman.
Lowe said that Sumter and her colleagues did not recommend anyone for the position. Sumter left the board earlier this year, after she was sworn in to a seat in the NJ State Assembly.
In April, officials told PatersonPress.com that the field had been narrowed down from about ten applicants to two finalists, each of whom lived outside the city and had expertise in utilities authorities. It was not clear why the agency did not go ahead and hire one of them.
Lowe said the authority would probably being advertising the position once again in December.
Meanwhile, the other major change in the budget involved the bottled water proposal. The authority had hoped to sell the bottles under the Great Falls label, even though the water would come from an out-of-state spring and not the Passaic River.
Originally the authority budgeted for $40,000 in revenue from selling bottled water marketed as Great Falls spring water, as well as $35,000 in "start-off" costs, according to Ackerman.
Lowe did not give a timetable for when the bottled water sales would begin. The plan was first announced in July 2011 by Mayor Jeffery Jones at his first State of the City address.
Lowe said the League of Municipalities convention in November could have provided an opportunity to market the water, but he was hesitant to purchase hundreds of cases of without a "real customer" for the product.
"We may have an opportunity to sell it within city buildings," Lowe said, but he added that he needed to have further discussions before that could become a reality.