Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Water Agency Facing Reforms

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Water Agency Facing Reforms

Article excerpt

Just weeks after taking the helm at the state's largest water supplier, former Bergen County Freeholder Todd R. Caliguire has proposed sweeping changes to the way the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission handles its finances and equipment.

Caliguire, a former Republican candidate for governor and Bergen County executive, presented his proposals to the commission's revamped board this week, and drew positive feedback. North Jersey District operates the Wanaque Reservoir and provides water to municipalities from Wayne to Newark, as well as United Water, which serves Bergen and Hudson counties. North Jersey District's water reaches 3.5 million people.

"My assessment after the first couple of weeks is that the agency has done a good job fulfilling its primary mission of providing clean drinking water, but frankly it could do an even better job with financial controls and efficiency," Caliguire said in an interview after the board's meeting on Wednesday.

Caliguire took over as the commission's executive director in June, just a few weeks after the Christie administration announced that an 18-month review found a lack of financial controls and other problems at the commission. Last year, Governor Christie forced out several board members and the commission's longtime executive director, Michael Restaino, as part of his larger effort to control independent state agencies.

"There are very lax inventory controls," Caliguire told the board. "We need a better handle on what we have, who is using it, and to consolidate our inventory in one location - that's simply Business 101."

He said the commission will conduct an audit of its vehicles, boats and rolling stock to identify what is no longer needed or obsolete, and get rid of it.

The agency also plans to review its connections with client municipalities and other water companies to make sure it has properly working meters in place. "Where we need to, we will make upgrades by the end of the year," said Joseph E. Stroin Jr., the commission's chief operating officer.

He said the commission already has meters on all its pipes that send water directly to municipalities, but in some cases water is sent to a provider that then "wheels" it along to a third customer, and the commission has to rely on data provided by the provider acting as a middleman. …

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