Sussex planning to sell water/sewer utility

Transaction could help borough erase $8M debt to county Municipal Utilities Authority

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The Borough Council decided on March 4 to prepare for a possible sale of the borough's Water and Sewer Utility.

The motion passed 4-2 with Councilwomen Linda Masson and Annette Stendor voting against.

Officials said the biggest benefit to selling the utility would be the elimination of the borough's debt to the utility of $8 million to the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority

Masson showed concern about the borough holding a contract with the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority, which she said won't let the borough out of a contract.

Council President Marina Krynicky spoke of a rate study which would make billing fairer for borough residents. If the council sold the utility, the borough would lose control with the reservoir and dam repairs ahead.

Masson also said the borough should not entertain selling everything until it can get the users' rates down.

Municipal Clerk/Administrator Mark Zschack said the bid document is a lengthy process to prepare for the ballot. Legal time restraints must be met in order to sell the utility, he said.

Zschack said the sale must be ready by the middle of August in order to be placed on the ballot in November, and also must be advertised for six weeks in the borough's official newspaper. Mayor Jonathan Rose said the only cost would be the advertising fees of $200.

Rose said that the council’s vote was to prepare for a possible sale. The Aqua Company, which previously bid on the utility, is interested again this year. Plus, a second company also is interested.

"This is the first step of many," Rose said.

Last year, there was one successful bidder who was willing to pay more than $10 million for the utility, which would have erased the borough's debit, but the sale was not completed because the borough failed to advertise the sale for six weeks.

Other concerns
Even if a company would say that it would not raise the rates for the first year, the company could go to the Board of Public Utilities and raise the rates.

Bonds and Insurance could possibly solve potential problems, but a lot of fact finding has to take place in order to determine what is best for the borough over the next 100 years.

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