Sussex Boro Mayor Stops Public Vote on Water Privatization

A few hours after taking office, newly inducted Sussex Borough mayor Republican Ed Meyer went back on his previous statement and vetoed an ordinance that would requiring a referendum on any future sale of the borough's water utility.

sussex_boro_03.jpgThis prevents residents of Sussex Borough from a direct say in whether the Borough may privatize its water system.

Meyer will only serve as mayor for ten days. He takes over temporarily for outgoing mayor Republican Jonathan Rose, who resigned on November 20 after his election to the Board of Freeholders. Meyer will remain in that position until January 1, 2016, when mayor-elect Democrat Kathy Little assumes the role.

Events were set in motion on November 4th, 2014, after the citizens of Sussex Borough voted overwhelmingly to retain the public water system.  The voters had at that time prevented its sale to a private, for-profit company. About a month later, the New Jersey legislature quickly approved the Water Infrastructure Protection Act, bill S2412.

This allows a municipality to bypass a public vote, by declaring its water system as being “in disrepair”, thereby fast-tracking a direct sale to a private contractor.

Still, municipalities have the ability to pass local ordinances that are more restrictive than federal or state laws. On December 1, 2015, Sussex Borough passed ordinance 2015-21, which, despite S2412, would require a public referendum before the sale of its water or sewer system. The ordinance passed 3-2. Voting for the ordinance were Kathy Little, Linda Masson, and Georgeanne Stendor. Voting against it were Republican councilmen Bob Holowach and Frank Dykstra.

This set up the veto by mayor Ed Meyer.