TRENTON, NJ – The petitioners protesting the $80 million sale of Trenton Water Works infrastructure announced Thursday that they will redouble their efforts in halting the sale.
The group will gather more signatures in the event the city declares the current tally of signatures insufficient to force a referendum, as is their legal right under state law.
“The suburban system is not the mayor’s to sell,” said Mr. McGrath, who continues to lead the petition drive.
The announcement comes after residents assisting with the petition drive heard city officials at a Mill Hill civic meeting on Wednesday admit the sale was an act of desperation that will stave off massive budget shortfalls for only 16 months or less. At that time Trenton will likely face a $31 million budget gap and a need for a tax increase equal to that currently projected by the city, according to city budget documents.
Also, the sale means the utility will no longer generate surplus cash to plug gaps and stabilize the budget in future years of need, City Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez said at the Mill Hill meeting. On video, he told residents the exact date when the water utility will again generate surplus cash after the sale remains unknown.
Mr. Gonzalez said pre-sale, the utility currently generates $3 to $4 million of surplus cash.
Former Trenton Business Administrator Bill Guhl, speaking at the same meeting, said Mayor Palmer’s plan is essentially trading a suburban system that makes $25 million in revenue annually for a deal worth only $10 million a year, plus savings in maintenance that “couldn’t possibly” cover the loss of revenue.
“This is a very bad deal,” said Mr. Guhl, calling it a “loser” for Trenton.
In light of the shortsightedness of such a plan, the petitioners say they will continue their efforts.
City residents have a choice, petitioners said.
Like what happened to the valuable downtown parking facilities and the city’s million-dollar stake in the TriGen energy facility, city residents can allow Mayor Palmer and City Council to feed one more valuable asset to the city’s budget to stave off its hunger for a little more than one year.
Or, residents can vote down the sale and keep the entire asset instead of the sale’s “watered-down” utility that would bring in no surplus and potential losses for the foreseeable future.