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Sewerage Authority Rejects Idea of Privatization

by Paul Peyton

The Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) will not privatize any of its operations -- at least not for the next three years, according to a resolution unanimously approved last week by the Board of Commissioners.

"We have an outstanding staff, no ifs, ands, or buts," said Commissioner Allen Chin of Westfield.

Commissioner Chin, a former Westfield Mayor, had seconded the motion made by Commissioner Ralph DeVino of Springfield.

"The staff has my utmost vote of confidence in the way the Authority is being operated," Commissioner Chin added.

In making his motion, Commissioner DeVino said, "Privatization is not even a consideration of the Commissioners because the 50-employee staff is doing such an outstanding job."

Authority Executive Director Richard Tokarski said that the annual charge of $78 per household - the second lowest in the state -- "speaks volumes of the quality of the staff."

Mr. Tokarski added, "The Commissioners have required us to do more with less; the costs to our municipalities have decreased over 9 percent since 1992."

"When a company or government agency goes to privatization, it is usually because there is a problem," said Scotch Plains representative Joan Papen, Chairwoman of the Personnel Committee.

"The RVSA is one of the best run authorities in the state," she continued. "I can certainly understand how this authority could be attractive to a private firm. No. I think it would be fool hardy to even consider privatizing at this time," she said.

Mr. Tokarski said he has a number of initiatives aimed at cutting costs even further, thus adding to the savings for the residents, industries and commercial customers.

These include: Continuing staff reductions, primarily through attrition; continued reduction of overtime -- overtime in 1996 was at an all time low of 1,300 hours, which resulted in a savings of almost $17,000 from the previous year; negotiation of a supplemental sludge reuse contract at a lower overall cost; installation of more efficient sludge thickening and dewatering equipment, and continuing the use of outsourcing services when cost effective.

The authority is an autonomous wastewater treatment agency servicing more than 300,000 residential and 3,500 industrial and commercial customers in 12 municipalities which include Springfield, Kenilworth, Roselle Park, Cranford, Westfield, Garwood, Clark, Rahway, Scotch Plains, Woodbridge, Mountainside and Winfield.

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