A meeting tonight at Hamilton Township’s municipal building could really get ugly when people from the surrounding areas get together to discuss the impending sale of the Trenton Water Works’ outside infrastructure to New Jersey American Water, a company that plans on leveling large-scale rate hikes on its new suburban customers.
That’s because of recent media reports that finally detailed for all to see the fiscal mismanagement going on in the City of Trenton, which has been using the city water works as a massive cash-generating facility to plug gaps in the rest of the city’s municipal budget.
Normally that would not be so bad, considering the city actually owns the utility, but such practices are actually unlawful because the Trenton Water Works serves thousands of customers outside of the city. With their rate money being used to pay for other areas of municipal services, it’s as if Trenton is taxing people living outside of its borders to fill budget gaps.
Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum deflected criticism by saying that the city’s move, in 2006, to equalize the rates paid by city residents and those living outside of Trenton removed the utility from Board of Public Utilities oversight and allowed the city to use the works for general city revenue.
But the only problem with that, according to Trenton Water Works employees contacted today, is that the nefarious practice of robbing revenue from the water utility has been going for years, untouched and unpunished by anyone, as the city continually removed more than the 5 percent of the works’ revenues allowable by law and plugged it into the city budget.
The Department of Public Works, the Fire Department, and other departments that do little to no work related to the Trenton Water Works have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the water utilities budget and the wallets of suburban taxpayers.
For a more personal example level, city communications employee and Mayor Palmer’s publicist, Kent Ashworth, has had his entire salary show up on the suburbia-supported Trenton Water Works budget.
It appears that now, with suburban residents facing higher rates that will exacerbate their cost of living issues, have more serious complaints been raised, and a Times of Trenton article written on the issue, which only partially revealed the way the Trenton Water Works has been abused by the Douglas H. Palmer administration.
Suburban residents and officials fed up with getting the short end of the stick from Trenton’s administration and city residents fed up with the same administration’s unlawful behavior should really consider taking drastic action before the sale goes through, which will both hurt Trenton’s long-term fiscal viability while dooming suburban residents to skyrocketing water costs.
Gee, sometimes the interests of suburban residents and those living in Trenton actually do converge.