Stage set for water appeal

Judge Linda S. Feinberg may have sided with the City of Trenton in court on Monday but the battle over the city’s planned $80 million sale of Trenton Water Works infrastructure is far from over.

The Monday ruling, like Judge Feinberg’s original ruling earlier this year, leaves open a host of issues that could be the subject of a lengthy appeal process that may take the city well into 2010.

Perhaps the most serious issue in the ruling is its failure to seriously consider whether or not state law governing water utility sales truly prohibits citizens from circulating petitions and protesting sale ordinances.

The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned Judge Feinberg on a similar issue in 2007 when they ruled that all ordinances are subject to protest petition and referendum actions after Judge Feinberg initially invalidated a petition that sought to put a police department reorganization ordinance to a public vote.

In their ruling the Supreme Court justices said quite explicitly that any and all ordinances should be subject to referendum, in a decision that would seem to place ordinances memorializing the sale of water utilities in the category of measures subject to protest.

In addition to this, issues over whether or not the water system set to be sold serves more than 5 percent of Trenton residents and technical questions that need answering remain unaddressed.

There are roughly 18 days remaining for the filing of a timely appeal notice, which would kick off a process that takes up to two years to resolve under normal circumstances.

The city, however, could request an expedited schedule.

But even then any Appellate Division proceedings could take nine months or more to be resolved.


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