Sussex Borough to send utility sale to referendum


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The Sussex Borough Council voted to introduce a referendum regarding the proposed sale of the Water and Sewer Utility Systems on Jan. 15.

Four members approved referring the sale decision to the public: Council President Marina Krynicky, Councilman Bruce LaBar, Councilman Salvatore Lagattuta, and Councilwoman Georgeanna Stoll.

Councilwoman Linda Masson and Councilwoman Annette Stendor voted against moving forward with the sale.

Mayor Jonathan Rose recused himself from discussions due to possible conflicts of interest with his business, Farious Net Solutions.

One member of the public was against selling the utility and one was in favor.

The referendum question would ask if Aqua New Jersey, Inc. should buy the Sussex Water and Sewer Utility System for $11,382,000.

The purchase price would be sufficient to pay all debt related to the utilities, with $3 million in excess.

Masson quoted foodandwaterwatch.org saying when utilities have been privatized, it did not resolve financial woes. Bergen County, Dover Township and Camden were mentioned as problems.

Councilman Salvatore Lagattuta countered that United Water discovered that Camden is a “war zone, and they could not send in repair trucks. The issue was with Camden itself.”

Masson further quoted that although the money is appealing to pay off a great amount of debt, it has put citizens in danger of inferior water.

Stoll commented that the purchase cost would be passed on to the customers: payment and interest.

In order to go forward, Council President Marina Krynicky proposed a special meeting with Aqua to answer all the questions. She also offered that some towns prevent rate increases in their contracts for a certain number of years.

The special workshop was scheduled for Tuesday, July 22. No action was expected to be taken

Action will then be taken at the July 29th meeting at 7:30 p.m. Both passed 4-2 with the same split.

Lagattuta read a statement of three facts saying:

The utility should be owned and operated by a knowledgeable company, under the state government.

Utility rates would be increased next year if the plant is not sold. The borough's 500 sewer and 700 water users would be responsible for necessary projects which will cost $1.5–$2.5 million.

The borough never received an offer of $11.4 million and may not see one like it in the future.

"This is probably one of the most important turning points in our borough's history, and we should not squander the opportunity that has been given to us," Lagattuta said.

Stendor said she would like to wait another six months.

Borough Attorney Francis J. McGovern said there was “a tight timeline.” If the referendum was not introduced that night, the referendum and possibility would be killed.

Masson said the borough was putting the “cart before the horse.” She wanted to know about more towns that have already privatized their utilities before going forward.

Stendor asked about the contract with Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority.

McGovern said by adopting the ordinance, they would know more.

Stoll said the July 22 meeting was “just to get more information. I don’t see any harm in that.”


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