BRIDGETON – The Cumberland County Utilities Authority sworn in two new members on Thursday, with immediate effect on major reorganization issues facing the Board of Commissioners.
The new commissioners are Dean Dellaquila of Bridgeton and William Whelan of the Township of Upper Deerfield. The county council of commissioners appointed them Tuesday evening, after creating the posts especially for them.
The new members, aided by the unexpected resignation of Commissioner R. Todd Edwards earlier today, created a solid majority of votes centered on longtime chairman Albert Jones. The president now appears to be able to count on the support of four commissioners on the nine-member board of directors.
“I appreciate you taking the job,” Jones told the new members. “Hope everything works.”
Dellaquila is Bridgeton’s public works manager and has had a regular working relationship with the authority. Whelan, a private banker, is a former member and director of the County Commissioners Council.
“I look in the general public and see a lot, a lot of people that I have worked with in my 38 years of service with the town of Bridgeton,” said Dellaquila. “I am a sociable person. I pride myself on transparency, integrity and accountability.”
Whelan said he plans to use his knowledge of finance.
“I look forward to making my contribution in any way I can,” said Whelan. “Either way, I can be of use to anyone else on the board. And I consider myself transparent too.”
Through their appointments, county officials intended to end the serious internal feuds that have disrupted the board of directors since May. The county government has been inundated with complaints from taxpayers and official statements of concern from at least two townships.
Dellaquila and Whelan were chosen to calm the board after county commission director Joseph Derella and deputy director Darlene Barber consulted with the mayors of Bridgeton and Upper Deerfield.
The authority now has eight seated commissioners: Dellaquila, Whelan, Jones, William Andre, Richard Dawson, Zarko Rajacich, Kenny Smith-Bey and Angelia Edwards. Dawson is vice president and with Rajacich is aligned with Jones.
Following the new majority, the board immediately addressed several controversial issues on Thursday and quickly settled them.
On a 7-1 vote, interim executive director Bob Carlson was hired on a permanent basis. Carlson, previously a resident engineer, became acting director this summer after his predecessor resigned in protest against what he described as malignant “outside” influences.
Carlson’s appointment reverses a push to hire Fairfield Township administrator Michael Burden, despite his apparent lack of qualifications for the job. The authority carried out a search for candidates.
On another 7-1 vote, Consulting Engineer Services of Sicklerville was named the consulting engineer. CES replaces Pennoni Associates, who will continue to work on projects already started.
Pennoni Associates is not in favor of the majority of the board of directors over its perceived role in an initiative to start an Internet service. Cumberland County’s sewer rate watch, formed by angry residents and elected officials from affected municipalities, also criticize the company.
In an 8-0 vote, the board rejected offers from law firms seeking legal and labor attorney positions from 2022. The authority now intends to hire one law firm, with the selected firm dealing with all issues.
The move requires a new round of bidding announcements. Currently, legal functions are handled by the law firm Zeff and labor matters by the law firm Marmero.
Edwards sent his resignation directly to Jones. He had several years to run for a five-year term. He was one of the four commissioners often in conflict with the president.
Jones announced his resignation, claiming that only Edwards “was moving on”. Edwards in his email said the decision was made reluctantly at the behest of Barber, who is a liaison with the SACC.
The division of the board in 2021 stems mainly from controversial initiatives to monetize authority and launch an internet service. The CCUA currently only provides the sanitation service.
Opponents of the two initiatives say the leader of the county’s Democratic Party, Doug Long, former commissioner and county chairman, is behind the ideas of monetization and broadband.
Dawson said he was “thrilled” with Dellaquila and Whelan’s additions, and he also praised Jones.
“It’s been a tough year with a lot of new things to come,” said Dawson. “And I think you’re remarkable in your handling of everything and your steady hand. And I appreciate that.”
Jones said he was just trying to do “the right thing.”
“I’m not looking for the fanfare,” Jones said. “I’m just here to do a job and protect authority and look after taxpayers as well.”
The CCUA treatment facility is located on Water Street in Bridgeton. The territory of the authority includes all of the city, but only parts of the townships of Upper Deerfield, Fairfield, Deerfield and Hopewell. The CCUA also has individual contracts, such as the fleet of mobile homes.
Joe Smith is a native of NE Philly who transplanted to South Jersey over 30 years ago, keeping an eye on the South Jersey government. He is a former editor and current editor of the Vineland Daily Journal, the Cherry Hill Courier-Post and the Burlington County Times.
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