Class-Action Lawsuit against Ridgewood Water , time to sell?
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, On Wednesday, officials from Glen Rock, Midland Park and Wyckoff held a press conference with their attorney Joseph Fiorenzo and called for the total of 26% in rate hikes from 2010 and 2011 to be rescinded and $3.3 million refunded to ratepayers.
Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park filed a $3.3 million class action lawsuit claiming Ridgewood funneled water utility revenue into its own municipal operating budget to avoid making hard cuts.Months of mediation between the parties has broken down. So on Wednesday, officials from Glen Rock, Midland Park and Wyckoff held a press conference with their attorney Joseph Fiorenzo.
The suit alleges the village had funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to subsidize its police and fire departments, its engineering department, the municipal attorney, expensive health and pension obligations .
Local critics claim Ridgewood Water has become an albatross around the necks of Village residents, overwhelmed by environmental and state regulation , alleged declining water quality and unwilling or unable to make the necessary investments in infrastructure. Regular summer water rationing and sky rocketing bills has not engendered the utility to anyone and rumors have surfaced from time to time that the utility was on the chopping block to sell The Village council was hoping for a positive outcome from mediation but the current “talks” have now hit a road block .
In somewhat over the top language Fiorenzo claimed the alleged bilking came between 2004-2009 and led to an operating loss for the utility. He then went on to criticize weak oversight and sloppy book keeping , claiming the utility would have shown a substantial profit . “Evidence revealed…there was no ‘loss’ to justify the extraordinary water rate increase,” Fiorenzo wrote in a statement. “Rather, Ridgewood has been bilking the ratepayers of Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park by having the ratepayers pay for a substantial portion of the operating expenses of the Village of Ridgewood.”
Ridgewood officials countered saying that Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park are taking their class action lawsuit to the media because their case is weak. Ridgewood Village Attorney Matt Rogers replied in a statement sent to media late Friday, “Generally, such tactics are used to inflame the situation due to lack of confidence in the legal merits of their case” Rogers remains confident in the Villages case saying adding the Village would continue “good faith and responsible effort” to keep water prices low for all Ridgewood Water ratepayers.