CCUA chief resigns over funding controversy, “outside forces” at work
BRIDGETON – The Cumberland County Utilities Authority is losing its longtime director over a controversial proposal to secure private funding.
Executive Director G. Steve Errickson said he had been excluded from “secret committee meetings”, preventing him from participating “in important decisions concerning the future of the authority”.
“It kept me from continuing to do my job and leading authority into the future,” he said.
Errickson, who has held the post since March 2013, announced his departure at Thursday’s meeting of the authority’s board. Its last day will be June 30.
After:Private funding proposal disrupts county sewer authority meeting
After:GALLOS: CCUA sewage deal doesn’t solve a problem, it’s the problem
“Now I wrote this a few weeks ago and have been sitting on it ever since,” Errickson said. “So my attitude was a little different from what it is now. Things are a little better. But I made a decision.
Errickson has alleged that “outside forces” were behind recent damaging membership changes. He did not identify the forces.
“The sudden change broke the chain of continuity that led to the success of the CCUA,” said Errickson. “As a result, my position has been undermined.”
The SACC board meeting had raised questions from the public, including a representative of the Communications Workers of America and a major food processor from Bridgeton. However, there has been no disturbance and insults among board members as in May.
At last month’s meeting, finance committee chairman Todd Edwards disclosed details of his committee’s meeting with private equity firm Bernhard Capital. He also pushed the authority to officially seek offers from the financial markets.
Errickson and board chairman Albert Jones were not notified of the meeting, which angered them enough to call Edwards.
Vice President Richard Dawson attended the meeting with Bernhard Capital. He supported a shameless Edwards as well as talks with Louisiana-based Bernhard Capital.
Bernhard Capital seeks broadly to assume financial control over the authority for a period in return for an upfront cash payment. The arrangement, known as the “concession”, would not involve the sale of the holding.
The possible impact on prices, already a sensitive point among users, is controversial.
No agreement has been reached with the firm, but the idea is active. The authority announces proposals for consideration at a future meeting.
Recently, signs similar to those used in political campaigns have appeared along the roads. Some signs oppose a ‘deal’, while others support it.
During Thursday’s meeting, Errickson expressed his deep distrust of private equity firms.
“I call them ‘corps raiders’,” he said. “That’s what they were called. Now they are called “venture capitalists”. You can call it whatever you want, but they are looters to me. I don’t trust anyone who does this kind of work.
Errickson also said the authority has access to loans, at a better interest rate, than it can get from an investment firm.
Negative reactions to the concession idea and the boisterous May SACC meeting raised concerns in the county commissioners council. Its director, Joseph Derella, then organized a private virtual meeting with the mayors of the five municipalities that use the authority.
The authority serves Bridgeton and the townships of Deerfield, Upper Deerfield, Hopewell and Fairfield. It also serves TIP’s Trailer Park and a federal prison, both in Fairfield.
Derella and County Commissioner Darlene Barber are the county’s liaison to the authority, and Barber participated remotely in the May and June meetings.
Barber berated the behavior of board members during last month’s session. On Thursday, she thanked officials for “a good meeting”.
“I want, just on behalf of Director Derella, I want to thank you for listening to his plan to slow things down, to engage our stakeholders, and more importantly for all of us to come together and see where the direction goes. both the county commissioners and you want to go for the future of Cumberland County, ”Barber said.
The authority is set up to operate autonomously, albeit in close collaboration with the county government.
Also on Thursday, the Board of Directors authorized the exploration of the possibility and desirability of offering broadband service to SACC. This involves discussions with the county government, which Barber says has researched improving broadband as part of its 911 service.
Edwards suggested the broadband initiative, saying such service is poor or absent in the authority’s territory. This has greatly increased the difficulties families faced with distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
CCUA attorney Gregg Zeff said his research suggests the authority could legally offer broadband service.
However, Errickson said there were conflicting views on the legality. The authority should logically seek to extend its sewer coverage to distressed communities such as Fortescue, he said.
“There are a lot of areas,” Errickson said. “Lawrence Township is in bad shape. There are people over there who abandon their homes because they can’t build a septic tank and they don’t have a sewer. So they move away from the house. Something has to be done there.
Joe Smith is a native of NE Philly who transplanted to South Jersey over 30 years ago, now 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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