Category Archives: Middletown Sewerage Authority

TOMSA Board’s 2012 re-organization meeting rumpled by nasty battle for the Chairmanship. Just kidding. It was all butterfly kisses.

by guest blogger Linda Baum

On February 9th, the Middletown Sewerage Authority Board held its 2012 reorganization meeting and introduced its newest member, Board alternate and first time appointee Anthony DeMarco.

The Board elected its officers at this meeting, heaping praise on each other as they went through the motions. In a sugary process that took under two minutes, last year’s officers slid smoothly into their same spots for the coming year.

Then, in quick installments, the Board re-appointed the existing auditor, engineer, and attorney. I guess it would have been awkward not to since two of them were sitting right there at the table and the third was on the way.

Showing uncommon humility for a newcomer these days, Mr. DeMarco didn’t seek the Chairmanship. No one bothered to nominate him for anything. (And believe me, I was tempted.) He seemed content to sit and watch. “It’s a learning experience,” veteran Board member and former mayor Joan Smith said to him earlier. Executive Director Pat Parkinson called it “a learning phase” and said, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.” So basically everyone, including Mr. DeMarco, agreed he wasn’t ready to steer the ship.

Since this was the annual reorganization meeting, all the Board members were present – the 5 regular members plus the 2 alternates. All were there in person except Thomas Stokes, who participated via conference call for the third month in a row and appeared to be sleeping in between votes and sometimes during them. At least he called in on time – in December he dialed in 15 minutes after the meeting started and asked to be marked as a “yes” for a vote he missed. That was pooh-poohed, of course.

Actually, to be fair to Mr. Stokes, he’s not the only Board member who had nothing to say. Votes were taken, one right after the next, without any discussion. Any Board member comments were tantamount to cheerleading. Lots of praises were sung, and maybe that was for my benefit.

Now I have to set the record straight about something. I’ve said in the past that there are no name plates at TOMSA Board meetings, but in fact there are. There is a name plate for each Board member, but none for the professionals who regularly sit at the table. The name plates are the old style dark wooden blocks with tiny lettering that is hard to see from a distance. The blocks blend in with the table, so are easily missed.

As it so happens, I have a name plate just like that. I’ll be sure to mention it on my Citizen Leadership application.

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Filed under Linda Baum, Middletown NJ, Middletown Sewerage Authority, Patrick Parkinson, reorganization, Tom Stokes, TOMSA

Secret Public Hearing at the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) Board meeting of December 7, 2011

by guest blogger Linda Baum

This was the second TOMSA Board meeting I’ve attended, and like last month, I was the only member of the public there.

The meeting started promptly at 7:30 p.m. — I made it there just in time — and the first thing on the agenda was a public hearing on TOMSA’s 2012 budget. Huh?? I knew nothing about it and hadn’t even had a chance to read the words “Public Hearing” on the agenda sheet when Executive Director Pat Parkinson asked if there were public comments. He never announced that it was a public hearing, so I didn’t know. He just awkwardly asked if there were comments. How am I supposed to comment on a budget I haven’t seen at a hearing I didn’t know about? I was caught by surprise and said nothing – a free pass they won’t get next time – and the Board quickly moved to adopt the budget by unanimous vote while I was still scratching my head.

I wondered why nobody told me about the public hearing since I know a few people who regularly check the public notices in the paper. In fact, hat tip to ‘B’ for letting me know about a Dec. 2nd notice in the APP changing the TOMSA Board meeting date from Dec. 8th to Dec. 7th. That notice said nothing about the public hearing. I did an online search for a notice that did, and found none.

Because the public wasn’t notified of the hearing in line with statutory requirements, the budget is subject to legal challenge. I intend to press this issue in order to get another hearing scheduled. I want the opportunity to review the budget (and, oh yeah, obtain it) and to prepare prior to the hearing. You may be wondering why I don’t just use the public comments period at the end of the next Board meeting to discuss the budget. Because hearings are a better forum for obtaining information – different rules apply to them. For one, there’s no time limit, so you will get all of your questions in, while public comments following a meeting may be limited to just a few minutes. Of course, even at hearings there’s no guarantee you’ll get any answers.

If you’re behind on your sewer bills, now’s the time to pay up. There will be an accelerated tax lien sale on December 20th for sewer fees that were due by the end of June 2011. Between 300 and 400 households (or businesses) will be affected.

This is the second year that TOMSA, which operates on a calendar year budget, has done an accelerated tax lien sale. December 2010 was the first one. Prior to that, sales were held each April, including a sale in April 2010. So there were two such sales in 2010, which coincidentally is the first year that TOMSA transferred surplus revenue to the Township – transfers were $365K in 2010 followed by $368K in 2011, per the Township’s 2011 adopted budget. TOMSA’s switch to an accelerated sale schedule in 2010 gave them a one-time boost in extra revenue for that budget year that made up for some of the Authority’s forfeited revenue that year.

One other observation. Late payers caught unaware by the accelerated sale schedule in 2010 may have found themselves with an unexpected lien on their properties and owing far more than they anticipated.

If you read my post on the November 10th meeting of the TOMSA Board, you may recall that there was a lot of discussion about the excessive fees TOMSA was charging for OPRA requests. Well, there’s news. Since then, TOMSA’s OPRA request form has been revised to list the correct fees per the 2010 amendment to the OPRA law, which lowered fees to just 5 cents for letter-size copies and 7 cents for legal, effective 7/1/10.

I mentioned at the December 7th meeting that TOMSA may owe a refund to people who have submitted OPRA requests since 7/1/10. Executive Director Pat Parkinson quickly replied that there haven’t been any requests. No OPRA requests in a year and a half??? I said that seemed unlikely, and some guy at the table actually had the nerve to mock me as if Parkinson’s word is law and I should believe what I’m told. (It was that Brian Nelson-esque fellow I mentioned in my last post. I’ll have to get his name next time.) Well, I’ve done some checking around, and I now know of at least 2 OPRA requests submitted to TOMSA in that timeframe.

A couple of days after the Board meeting, I submitted my own OPRA request to TOMSA. One of the things I asked for is a list of persons who have submitted an OPRA request since 7/1/10. I figure those folks might like to know they have a holiday bonus coming. Mr. Parkinson handles all OPRA requests personally, so it will be interesting to see what I get.

I’m learning that Parkinson has almost complete control over all public communication outside of regular customer service. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the clerical staff even records when an OPRA request comes in – stuff just gets passed right along to Parkinson. If you call and ask for anything more than the most basic information, you will be referred to Parkinson. Other people either don’t know the answers or appear to be under a gag order. Surely, professionals such as the manager or staff accountant have knowledge enough to respond to many questions, but they won’t, and the clerical staff will tell you as much. “You’ll have to speak to Mr. Parkinson,” they say.

One of the capital projects discussed at the meeting had to do with “digging out” manhole covers that had been buried under dirt, tar, or other material over the years. Some were covered during construction operations, some just by the accumulation of foliage. I asked if TOMSA was going to seek reimbursement from any parties whose work projects caused the manholes to be covered in the first place, like the County, the Township, or private contractors. I was thinking, in part, that there might be insurance liability coverage available. Parkinson replied that the projects were done 15 years ago and that TOMSA has no plans to seek recovery. He said that TOMSA now has its people stationed at work sites to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Fifteen years doesn’t strike me as all that long ago. TOMSA was formed in the 1960s, so they’ve been around long enough to have had procedures in place in the 1990s to ensure that manholes weren’t buried during construction projects and, if they were, to be informed and to remediate in a timely manner.

Because TOMSA won’t be seeking possible recovery from the at-fault parties, rate-payers will bear the cost. Even if this is a relatively small project for which TOMSA has money in its budget, it means there is less money for other projects or less surplus to offer the Township for tax relief.

More on manholes: An interesting revelation was made at the Planning Board meeting just this past Wednesday, December 14th. An engineer was making a presentation about infrastructure in and around the Bamm Hollow site, where 190 homes are to be built. He mentioned that the sewer system currently in place is overloaded to the point where sewerage is leaking out of manholes, and that TOMSA is currently sealing manholes to prevent the leakage.

I have to wonder, now, if some of the manholes to be uncovered as part of TOMSA’s “access recovery” project were sealed by TOMSA itself.

There was an update at the TOMSA Board meeting on the Monmouth County Improvement Authority’s solar project, in which TOMSA, the Township, and the Board of Education are participating. The MCIA received only one bid for 16.9 cents per kilowatt hour and the bid was rejected by the MCIA as too high. No word yet on the next move by the MCIA or any of the participants.

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Filed under Bamm Hollow redevelopment, blog post, budget adoption, Linda Baum, manhole covers, Middletown Planning Board, Middletown Sewerage Authority, OPRA requests, Patrick Parkinson, public hearing, TOMSA

Letter: Middletown GOP to blame for poor fiscal policies

The following letter appears online today at the Asbury Park Press:

In his Oct. 21 letter, “Real solutions to problems put Middletown on right track,” Mayor Anthony Fiore admitted that Middletown government is derailed. I could not agree more.

True to form, he falsely blames years of excessive spending, unnecessary bonding, escalating taxation and debt, all cradled in Republican mismanagement, on the Middletown Democrats who somehow magically made elected Republicans spend our tax dollars. This is just more empty rhetoric to go with decades of empty promises.

After Fiore strong-armed $500,000 from library funds, took $350,000 for the second year in a row from sewerage authority fees and used $1.3 million in public education funds, his so-called fiscal discipline required a 12 percent tax increase to cover $45 million of a $62 million budget. This lack of incumbent Republican fiscal discipline has Middletown looking at a projected $2 million shortfall for 2012.

Ask Mayor Fiore if he has a real solution. Past Republican practice points at raising taxes. During his term, he has contributed 22 percent to a 40 percent increase in taxes over the last five years. Past practice also points at adding to our $70 million debt, which has increased 66 percent over the same five years.

Finally, at least $2.4 million of $4 million in “cuts” claimed by Mayor Fiore were onetime nonrecurring expenses that were never part of the 2011 budget.

Put a stop to more than 30 years of poor fiscal policy and borrowing. Please help our community get back on track. Vote for James Grenafege and Carol Fowler.

James Grenafege

Middletown Township Committee candidate

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Jim Grenafege, letter to the editor, Middletown Democrats, Middletown Library, Middletown Sewerage Authority, property taxes, Republicans, Tony Fiore

New Robo Call From Concerned Citizens Of Middletown Attacks Sewerage Authority (TOMSA)

The mysterious group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Middletown sent out yet another a robo-call earlier today. This time to target of the message was the patronage pit known as the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA).

TOMSA Commissioners are a who’s who of Middletown Republican cronies that consist of former mayors and Middletown Republican Party officers that receive a $1750 yearly stipend that counts toward State pension credits and medical benefits.

Below the audio player is the transcript of the call

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

Have you heard that for 30 years your sewerage fees paid for stipends, a Cadillac health care plan and state pension credits for loyal members of the Middletown Republican party?

Similar abuses existed at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority until the squandering of money and the rampant hiring of family and political cronies was stopped by Governor Christie.

Why isn’t Middletown following the Governor’s lead and reforming the Middletown Sewerage Authority?

Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Middletown

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Filed under Concerned Citizens of Middletown, Middletown Sewerage Authority, Robo-calls, TOMSA

Toms River Mayoral Candidate’s Call For Dissolving MUA Sounds An Awful Lot Like Dems Call In Middletown To Dissolve TOMSA

Democrats in Middletown have been calling for the the elimination of the Township of Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA)for quite a while now. It is packed with former and present Republican officials — Joan Smith (former mayor), Pat Parkinson (a former mayor who is receiving a salary and all the benefits because he is a full-time employee), Tom Stokes, Chantel Bouw, Emil Wrede, James Hinckly and Charlie Rogers are all well connected members of the Middletown GOP holding various offices within the organization, add to that the name of Township Attorney Brian Nelson former member), you can start to understand the patronage hole that TOMSA has become.

Former Committeeman Sean Byrnes proposed doing away with the authority last year and moving the responsibilities to the Public Works Department because it was a huge patronage pit where all of the current members of TOMSA have been commissioners for several years or more and receive a yearly stipen,State pension credits and are entitled to a Cadillac health care plan at little cost. His proposal however fell on deaf ears or were met with ridicule.

So it is not surprising to hear that the candidat for Mayor in Toms River, Paul Brush, was meet with the same ridicule earlier this week when he spoke out about the patronage pit that is the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), making it his signature campaign issue this year according to an article that ran in the Asbury Park Press on Wednesday.

In a prepared statement, Brush said he was prompted to speak out again on the matter after the Township Council appointed MUA Commissioner Alfonso Manforti to fill the unexpired term of former Councilwoman Melanie Donohue-Appleby, who recently resigned to become a Superior Court judge.

At the time of his appointment, Manforti was also the president of the Toms River Regular Republican Club. He agreed to resign from the club and the MUA following his appointment to the council.

When he announced his candidacy last spring, Brush said he was incensed at the appointment last year of Brick Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis as executive director of the Toms River MUA.

Acropolis was given a $93,000 annual salary as the full-time MUA chief atop his salary as the full-time mayor of Brick, which pays him a salary of $53,000, for a total public salary of $146,000.

“This is in-your-face arrogance,” Brush said Tuesday. “Meanwhile, our mayor and council reward the MUA Commissioner (Manforti) with a position on the Township Council. This has to stop.”

Brush said the authority’s seven commissioners attend one meeting per month and are paid $2,000 with the promise of a pension while entitled to excellent health benefits. Three commissioners, including Manforti, contributed just $30 per year for health insurance, which costs the township $19,954 over the same time period.

“This flies in the face of what the governor is trying to accomplish in New Jersey, but the local politicians remain defiant of the governor,” Brush said.

Brush said the administrative functions of the MUA should be eliminated and its operation absorbed into municipal government at town hall.

“So why does the mayor and council continue to support this bureaucracy at the MUA?” Brush asked. …

…Brush said the authority’s seven commissioners attend one meeting per month and are paid $2,000 with the promise of a pension while entitled to excellent health benefits. Three commissioners, including Manforti, contributed just $30 per year for health insurance, which costs the township $19,954 over the same time period.

“This flies in the face of what the governor is trying to accomplish in New Jersey, but the local politicians remain defiant of the governor,” Brush said.

This is seems like déjàvu all over again for Dems in Middletown who have expressed the same concerns and see the similarities between what goes on between Toms River’s MUA and Middletown’s TOMSA.

Currently the only way to stop this patronage abuse In Middletown and end the entitlement to benefits that of current TOMSA commissioner feel, is not to reappoint them. Unfortunately however, when Middletown had the opportunity two years ago to save tax payers a little money by not reappointing commissioners that had been “grandfathered” against losing such benefits, the members of the Township Committee failed to act and reappointed Tom Stokes, voting 4-1 to reinstate him for another term as a TOMSA Comissioner.

Hopefully in the near future, as other commissioners are up for reappointment, the Township Committee will think differently and not reappoint their GOP cronies to the sewerage authority, but I doubt it.

Just like I doubt that the Township Committee would ever consider doing away with TOMSA and transfering its responiblities to the Middletown Department of Public Works as Sean Byrnes previously proposed.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Department of Public Works, former mayor., Middletown NJ, Middletown Sewerage Authority, Paul Brush, Toms River NJ, TOMSA

>The Middletown Library is no Sewerage Authority

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

So some think the Library should offer money to the Township because the Sewerage Authority did? Now let’s think about that.

First, let’s be clear that right now your sewer fees are not part of your property taxes – you pay them separately. Those fees go straight to the Sewerage Authority, bypassing the town budget. Now consider that if sewer services were housed under the Department of Public Works – where they should be – the town would save a bundle by the consolidation and those fees would be rolled into your property taxes. Then the surplus would flow back to the township anyway because the revenue would be part of the town’s budget.

Another line of thinking is that the Sewerage Authority should return surplus money to residents, not the town, because you pay these fees directly. And shouldn’t some part of the surplus go back to the other towns (Highlands and Atlantic Highlands) that pay to use our sewer services? The Sewerage Authority could argue that it has never been the practice to return monies, so therefore there is no need to now. They could also argue that they are an independent body and can do as they please, including continuing to operate on a for-profit basis.

And now one more point. The services that the Library provides cannot be compared to sewage treatment. The Library is the heart of the community. When you walk in, there is a feeling a warmth and family. There we can find the support we need for our personal and professional growth throughout our lives. And keep in mind, the library is funded in accordance with law. It is just that important.

Note:
Last year the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) donated $365,000 of surplus funds to Middletown Township to help offset last years budget deficit, it is expected that this year TOMSA will contribute a comparable sum to the Township.

The question that should be answered here is; Are residents and other municipalities being overcharged by TOMSA, if so than shouldn’t surplus funds be returned to those that have been overcharged in the first place, not given to the Township of Middletown to help fill in budget deficits?

As Ms. Baum pointed out the counter argument is that the surplus is being returned to the residents through local property tax relief, but again what about the towns of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands that already feel they are being overcharged and have no recourse and are indirectly providing property tax relief to Middletown? – MM

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Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown Library, Middletown Sewerage Authority, property taxes, save our library

Sewer Authority Slush Fund ??


One of the more interesting line items that I found in the proposed Middletown Municipal budget that will be introduced at tonight’s special budget meeting is the $365K transfer of surplus funds from the Middletown Sewer Authority to the Township.

Under the heading of General Revenues on sheet 10 of the budget, the line item titled Miscellaneous Revenues shows a contribution of Sewer Authority Surplus of $356K to the municipal budget.
So the questions are, if the Sewer Authority has this much money sitting around to give to the Township, are they charging us too much for their services? And, if this $365k is over their surplus allotment what were they planning to do with this money if they did not “give” it to the Township?
Its been a well known fact that the Middletown GOP uses the Sewer Authority as a dumping ground for party loyalist and cronies, each commissioner of the authority is entitled to a yearly stipend, township health benefits and pension credits. Obviously, the Sewerage Authority is like a slush fund where favored professionals get paid, people get jobs, no one watches what’s going on and is a nice way for the majority party to reward those who tow the line.

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Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown GOP, Middletown Sewerage Authority, Middletown Township Committee, slush fund