Many of you will remember when the Nishuane Water Treatment Facility was originally proposed in January of 2013. The plan to destroy this beautiful, tranquil parkland in order to build a 2-1/2 story, 37 X 42 ft industrial building with 24/7 noise and air pollution was met with outrage by the local community, as well as residents from other parts of Montclair.
More than 80 people came to the public hearings. Over 300 letters of concern and an online petition were sent to the Town Council and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Green Acres Division. The Town of Montclair, as the applicant for the Green Acres Diversion of parkland from Nishuane, is required by the NJDEP to address these letters and to answer the questions and concerns contained in them.
It took the water department more than 15 months to post their answers and the answers provided in the Water Bureau Questions and Answers document are completely inadequate. Not one comment letter was identified, or made available for the public to review. No specific questions raised in those letters were answered. Some of the questions and answers prepared by the Town were rife with snide remarks, or only partially answered. It is unacceptable that the Town staff and Council have treated citizen concerns to losing precious parkland with such a cavalier attitude.
The Water Department’s April 29th Update Presentation to the Town Council, raised still more concerns. Cost estimates changed, in some cases drastically.
• The cost of building the well in Nishuane Park went down from $2.36 mil to 2.1 mil. The option to add $200,000 to make it “look better” just brings it back up to its original cost!
• The cost of pumping the water from Nishuane to the existing Glenfield facility went from $2.6 million to $4.1 million without any explanation.
• The cost of buying an equivalent amount of water went from $122,000 per year to $479,000 per year. All in just 16 months. Talk about inflation!
Everyone should be concerned about the veracity and motives of a Water Department that reduces the cost of the plan they appear to favor while doubling and quadrupling the costs of the alternatives they evidently don’t want.
The Town must also make it clear to the public that the funding it is requesting from the New Jersey Infrastructure Trust is a loan that must be paid back and that all costs to maintain the facility must be budgeted and paid for with Montclair taxpayer money.
Montclair claims to be a ‘green and sustainable’ town, yet nowhere in this Update Presentation was a sustainable water conservation plan mentioned. Conservation of all our natural resources should be a priority of town government. Sustainability is all about living within our means, not robbing future residents of water.
Many of us are concerned about the kind of development proposed in the Master Plan; if this water treatment facility is not built, then future development will have to be limited, as most residents want. This is no longer a local issue that affects a little park in the south end of town. Indeed, if this water treatment is built it will have town wide repercussions because it will allow for and eventually justify more and more development. “We’ve got the water. Now let’s get 5,000 more people to drink it”.
If you are concerned about over development and conserving our natural resources and want to make sure that our officials account for their actions please come to the Town Council Meeting on June 10th at 7pm, 205 Claremont Ave, in Council Chambers. If we do not speak up now, all of Montclair will have to live with the consequences in the future.