Borough Of Pemberton (a resident's perspective)

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Other Voices
Bruce Buzalski  Dec 16, 2013

You are invited to visit Steve Fenster's comments on the strange functioning of the Pemberton Borough Council.  My concern has been focused on there treatment of Solar power in the borough.  What I learned tonight is that there is no requirement for the Council to respond to a letter addressed to them.  They can just ignore it completely.

The Borough form of Government gives the elected council complete autonomy to do what ever they please to whom ever they please.  It is even extremely difficult to recall an elected representative before the end of his or her term.  The moral of that is make sure you know who you are electing and get out there and Vote.  The last election was won or lost depending on your perspective by as few as six votes.  Make yours count!!!

MORE ON SOLAR
Bruce Buzalski Dec. 16, 2013

Over the past three months I've sent letters to the Borough council advising them that their wiring requirements are written so that they pay me 9 for each kWh I produce but they charge me .22 for every kWh that I send to the grid.  Then they charge me .22 for every kWh that that I take from the grid, even the same kWh I just gave them. (continued)

We Made the Burlington County Times Front Page

My Voice
Bruce Buzalski Sept 27, 2013

This page may look like the borough website but it definitely is not.  This is my voice and the voices of other residents who may wish to contribute. I will present issues here that are important to me and especially issues where I believe the Borough Council is not acting in the best interests of the residents by whom they were elected.

Of primary interest to this resident is the Borough's treatment of Solar Energy within the community.  There will be many articles on that topic but in summary, as of this writing, the borough, because they own their own electric utility can do anything they want to the residents.  There are no regulations governing them except the ones they write themselves for their own convenience.

Borough Council

The Borough form of Government in the State of New Jersey (http://bit.ly/15zQzx4) and claims that it has a weak Mayor and that the Council performs most legislative and executive functions.  I can't say that is the case in this community where a majority of council members follow the lead of the Mayor. 

Most of the Council members have been on that body for many years.  If someone is going to speak their mind, it is generally those older members. 

There are two meetings.  One at 6pm which is held in a small conference room, hidden away that no one knows about, and the other starts at 7pm and is in the main auditorium. Most decisions and all discussion takes place at the 6pm meeting.  During the open meeting it is rare for a Council Member to share their opinion.

The Council does not have to hear petitions publically.  I submitted a petition in the form of a recommended change to the Ordinance and the Council, in private, decided not to address the issue.  It never saw the light of day in a public meeting, not even under communications.  The topic was never brought to the public's attention except during the open portion of the meeting. 

The Council is Autonomous.  Be careful who you elect to it.

Republican Club
Sept 28, 2013 BTBuzalski

There are monthly (almost) meetings of the republican club in town.  They are held in the home of one of the members and are not widely publicized.  In an attempt to get more participation I offered to publicize the last meeting.  At the last minute the meeting was canceled because the new venue could not be confirmed.  I didn't go to the normal venue to see if it was still happening.

It was promised that the October meeting would be a meet and greet for the candidates up for election.

Property Taxes

The property taxes in the Borough are low, or are they.  The last time there was a revaluation of the homes was more than 20 years ago. During that time home values have changed dramatically.  New homes have been built and older homes are still valued at where they were many years ago.  My home was built in 2007 and cost $370,000.  Today the Zillow valuation is $270,000.  The tax valuation on the house and property is $168,000.  Older residents of the community have valuations that are based on what home values were many years ago.  It's time for a re-evaluation.   The Council states that if they had it done, it would be expensive and we wouldn't like the results.  I'm not sure who the "we" is in their statement.<Learn More>

Solar Energy

The State of New Jersey demands that all it's Public Utilities support Solar Energy and, in accordance with the National Energy Policy, permit the use of Net metering at the request of the consumer.  Because Pemberton Electric is a small private utilitity they fall through the crack and can do anything they want.  Their ordinance requires a separate meter to measure the energy going into the grid.  The problem with that is that all the Solar Energy goes into the grid before it is used by a consumer.  The result is that The Borough's utility purchases ALL of the solar produced at 50 on the dollar.

Were the Borough to permit Net metering, they would do as their Ordinance states, which is purchase the Excess Energy produced.  Since home systems are designed to produce only 70% of the consumption, the Borough would never be required to purchase any energy..  However the Solar producer would be making use of the Borough's infrastructure, which would impose a burden on the other residents.

As a result they take it all and force the Solar Consumer to purchase all the  electricity they use at the Borough's inflated prices.  As a result the Solar Consumer is not paying just their $0.22 per kwh but $0.36 because of the low price the Borough pays for the energy.  The Borough makes a huge profit on this operation.

No Solar for Non Profits

Non profit institutions run some large facilities in town.  Their electric bills are excessive.  They would very much like to install Solar on their buildings both to help the ecology and reduce their bills. 

The repressive regulations in the Borough discourage anyone from installing solar.  The only change they need to make is permit Net meters.  If they would do that, it would become economical for residences and non profits to make more use of solar and be less dependent on fossel fuels.

Taxing through Utilities

The property taxes are capped by state regulation to increasing 2% per year.  We used to pay for our garbage collection through our taxes.  You have recently received a bill for collection.  I expect that to increase in the future.

The only way the Borough is making it through is by taking profit from it's utilities and putting them in the general fund.  You think your electric rates are high?  Yes, they are.  The highest in the state (or anywhere else for that matter).  Each year more than $200,000 of your Utility money is transferred to the General Fund to keep the Borough afloat.  This is unconscionable.  The ones it is really hurting are the non-profits who are also taxed heavily because of the Borough's actions. <Learn More >

Planning

Take a look at the Borough as you drive through.  There is not much going on.  There are a few little shops in the center of town, but nothing thata would encourage tourists to stop in, yet alone residents.  We do have a flower shop, and antique dealer, a Burger King, a strip mall which is largely empty and the stores that are there for the most part serve the underserved in the community with the notable exception of Violet.

The Hardware store is amazing if you've never been there.  You wouldn't be enticed to go in because of the appearance, but they do have a wide range of items available. 

I've never heard the Council discuss what their view of the business district is.  I'd like some more upscale shops attracting more upscale people.  They just voted for more low cost housing.  What we really need is more upscale housing and businesses to increase the revenue and improve the character of the town.

Is it too much to ask the Council to present their view of that they would like the town to become?  What is their plan.  Do they have one.  Is it open to the public for discussion?  We have an election coming up.  What platform do the candidates have. 

There is supposed to be a meet and greet in October.  I can't wait to see if it happens.

Cable Provider
Sept 28, 2013 BTBuzalski

Earlier this year the Council discussed the contract with Comcast which was up for review.  There was much discussion because Comcast never met their obligation to connect everyone in the Borough.  There are still residents who have no cable service.

Hearthstone is wired for Verizon but we can not connect to Fios because of the restrictive agreement with Comcast.  This needs to change.  Comcast and Verizon need the competition.