On April 18, in a moment of unguarded and surprisingly honest candor, our Hunterdon County Board of Commissioners made three admissions regarding our county waste transfer station: this facility is deteriorating, that they know nothing about managing it for profitability, and protecting it as an asset for the good and well-being of Hunterdon County residents is beyond their collective set of management skills.
And whereas, these failures should instill a resolve upon our spirited public servants to do better and to improve the services of this facility, they have scheduled two hearings for divesting the county of this all-important asset. Or as I know such hearings…the lazy out.
These hearings are needed, ostensibly, because the commissioners have labeled their mismanagement as the failure of governmental bureaucracy to provide that which would be better provided by the private sector. This burgeoning bureaucracy–remember they are the bureaucracy and responsible for it, consists of but a single employee and an undefined budget of $194,320. And if the truth be known for the past several years the county has not operated the facility, but has contracted operations to a possible purchaser-Waste Management.
An obtained copy of the current operating agreement contains an attached proforma operating statement. Which states unequivocally that Waste Management is responsible for: repairs and improvements to the facility, equipment acquisition, equipment repairs and associated expenses such as insurances and utilities. Additionally, though not consequential, contained within the proforma statement is an estimated profit of $75,500.
Why is our board of county commissioners discussing ridding us of this asset? Why isn’t the discussion centering on the enforcement of the contract they entered into? Isn’t that their job? Enforcement of county agreements and protection of county assets.
This reasoning to sell begs two questions regarding the supposed failure of “governmental bureaucracy.” The first question: where within this cobbled hybrid system does the fault lie, county government or the private sector? The second, and to my mind the more important question: has due diligence been performed ascertaining why a facility producing a steady and reliable stream of revenue failed to produce a profit?
The first reading of the county resolution to sell was to be held June 6, with a scheduled final reading June 27. And true to their disdain for us, their constituency and the good and well-being of the public the county commissioners are conducting these meetings in the spirit of a cabal, at their usual and highly inconvenient time of 5:30PM. Ask yourself reader, can you attend?
The transfer station produces a steady stream of revenue. Why not explore organizing it under a new authority, a watchdog–The Waste and Resource Recovery Authority of Hunterdon County? Many communities and counties have done so successfully. An independent authority empowered to focus on contracts, operations and recycling may well find new technologies and develop efficiencies. At the very least, mission one should be having commercial waste companies pay commensurate tipping fees—fees paid to dispose of waste–to cover the expenses of maintenance and operations while producing an actual profit. Who knows, perhaps a successful authority will also cover our costs for hazardous recycling and electronic cleanup days? Even add a few for convenience. I certainly would place it in their purview.
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