The Trenton Water Works sale could end up on the ballot after all.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg granted a motion on Monday that could allow the group of Trenton residents who have protested the sale to put the question to a vote sometime in the coming months.
The ruling represents a reversal for the City of Trenton and New Jersey American Water Co., both of which attempted to have the citizens’ protest petition thrown out but now find themselves in the position of having to convince Judge Feinberg as to why the sale should not be put to a vote.
The critical issue to Monday’s ruling was whether or not the suburban Trenton Water Works infrastructure set to be sold serves more than 5 percent of the city’s population. If it does, Judge Feinberg said, the city is obligated to put the sale to a referendum at some point in the coming months regardless of the existence of a petition.
The 5 percent issue reemerged as a critical issue after the petitioners produced expert testimony stating that the outlying system did serve more than 5 percent of the city’s population, requiring the sale to be put to a vote. Judge Feinberg, when presented with the testimony, reversed her earlier decision pending a new hearing.
Under the new development the city and water company have until Friday to provide the citizens and the court with information about whatever expert testimony the two entities plan to bring into the debate, setting the stage for a plenary hearing that will decide the fate of the ballot question.
City officials have said the deal must be concluded by the end of June otherwise the entire $80 million sale, which will compromise the water works’ ability to generate revenue for the city, will be in jeopardy.