Jackson council members name new commissioner to utilities authority


JACKSON – Township Council members have appointed Janet Longo to a five-year term as a commissioner on the Jackson Township Municipal Utilities Authority (JTMUA). Longo’s term will run from Feb. 1, 2021 through Jan. 31, 2026.

Longo will succeed Vickie Rickabaugh on the JTMUA Board of Commissioners. She will join commissioners William J. Allmann, Carol Blake, Clara Glory, Todd Porter and Lewis Wildman on the board.

Longo’s appointment to the authority was confirmed during the Jan. 12 meeting of the Jackson Township Council by council President Andrew Kern, Councilman Martin Flemming, Councilman Alexander Sauickie, Councilman Stephen Chisholm and Councilman Nino Borrelli.

Longo and her family moved to Jackson in 1998. She served on the Planning Board from 2011-15. She said she is pleased to have been appointed to the JTMUA and looks forward to representing the authority’s ratepayers.

According to its website, the JTMUA’s goal “is to provide the residents of Jackson with high quality, reliable and cost-effective water and waste water services. JTMUA is committed to operate and maintain their facilities safely and economically while protecting the public health and the environment.”

“Mrs. Longo has a long history of volunteering throughout the township, including serving for a number of years on the Planning Board. I am confident she will make a terrific addition to the JTMUA,” Kern said.

Sauickie said the council members were looking to add new perspective and experience to the authority.

“The JTMUA (commissioners have) a lot of long-time experience, which is great, however, we thought adding a fresh perspective with new ideas would be a good thing,” Sauickie said.

“Janet Longo is a great candidate. She is a long-time resident, she has volunteered and served on township boards in the past, she is a business owner and a (JTMUA) ratepayer, and she lives in one of our adult communities so she can bring some additional representation and perspective from our senior residents as well,” the councilman said.

The JTMUA has a professional staff that consists of David Harpell (executive director), James R. Diaz (assistant executive director/director of finance), Earl Quijano (principal engineer) and Andy Asch (superintendent).

In an interview, Harpell told the Tri-Town News the JTMUA is a progressive water utility.

“I’ve been at the authority 14 years and we have spent almost $65 million on capital improvements. Our rates are still very good in town; it is amazing how much money goes into keeping the infrastructure up in a system like ours.

“That is probably the biggest surprise for me, when people hear how much money (the JTMUA) spends and their water bills are still very reasonable. Our typical customer probably pays about $90 a quarter for water, in that range.

“We can spend $65 million in capital improvements, we have great water in town and to keep your bills somewhat to very reasonable still. I think one of the things we are most proud of is keeping our rates stable,” Harpell said, adding the authority is in the process of completing $29 million worth of projects.

One significant project for the JTMUA is the construction of the Six Flags Great Adventure replacement water treatment plant.

The existing Great Adventure water treatment plant was constructed in the 1970s and was in need of replacement. In 2018, the authority was able to borrow funds at extremely low interest rates and was able to leverage that financing into a cost-effective joint project with the theme park’s operator, according to the JTMUA website.

The JTMUA is constructing a water treatment plant, which it will own and operate, on property it owns outside Great Adventure on Route 537. Construction on the new treatment began in mid-2018 and is expected to be completed by this summer. The new facility will serve Great Adventure and the JTMUA service area, including the Route 537 corridor.

“This was a nice team effort. Essentially, (Great Adventure) is paying 52% of the cost of the new plant. Six Flags will get out of the water business, they won’t have to worry about maintaining the plant and it is great improvement for the town,” Harpell said, adding that the new treatment plant will support projects that have been planned along Route 537.

Until 2011, there were three public water systems in Jackson: the JTMUA water system, the Great Adventure water system and the Legler water system. The JTMUA purchased the Legler water system from the township and connected it to the authority’s system in 2011.

The next phase was to interconnect the Great Adventure water system via an extension on West Commodore Boulevard, Patterson Road, Anderson Road and Route 537. That project is being completed, Harpell said.

The JTMUA also completed the Manhattan Street water storage tank and warehouse project as part of its capital improvement plan.

The authority plans to replace infrastructure throughout Jackson during 2021, including in the Brookwood development and at the Crystal Brook condominiums on Bennetts Mills Road.

“The Crystal Brook pump station is 30 to 40 years old and it is failing. We are going to replace that pump station for a little under $900,000. The authority spends most of its money on water, but that is a big sewage project we are going to do,” Harpell said.

The authority’s executive director clarified the differences between the JTMUA’s projects and projects being built by private developers throughout Jackson.

“Some of this is developers are going to run water and sewer lines to serve their projects, but we kind of, in our minds, separate those out. The ones we do are to make the system better and to serve the current residents. … If a developer wants to come in and run a water and sewer line, typically that is all on their dime and at their cost to do that,” Harpell said.