County News


TRENTON - On Sept. 6, New Jersey Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake announced she has sponsored crucial legislation aimed at ensuring people wishing to buy back their home from foreclosure or are purchasing a foreclosed home to live in can compete with investors.

The bill, numbered A4412, is another effort by Assemblywoman Timberlake to combat New Jersey’s foreclosure crisis and provide equitable housing to New Jersey residents. “There is a massive amount of community wealth lost to investors with deep pockets of cash at foreclosure auctions. With this foreclosure sales bill, those who want to actually live in the community as owner-occupants can now fairly compete,” says Assemblywoman Timberlake. 

“This bill levels the playing field for those seeking to live in the property by setting realistic down payment and full payment timeframes, which better enables financing options for those proving intent to purchase the home as their primary residence or to save the home they already live in.”

Specifically, bill A4412 would revise procedures for sheriff’s sales before and after residential foreclosure, lowering buyers’ required deposit to 3.5 percent from 20 percent, in line with down payment standards for FHA and many conventional mortgages. The bill requires the bidder to have a pre-approval from a NJHMFA approved lender and must prove intent to use the property as a primary residence. It also includes steep fines for those who seek to exploit the law by using the lower down payment amount and financing timeframe options for property flipping or other purposes other than owner occupancy.

“My constituents sent me to Trenton to be an advocate for New Jersey’s families, and this bill reflects the best interests of all our communities,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake. “Ensuring fair and attainable housing for everyone in New Jersey is a principle that every legislator should support.”

Assemblywoman Timberlake introduced bill A4412 on August 28 at the General Assembly meeting. The General Assembly resumes voting sessions on September 13.


By Walter Elliott

EAST ORANGE / NEWARK - What and who benefits from the Aug. 10 East Orange Water Commission's settlement of a seven-year-old lawsuit with the City of Newark over sewer charges may depend on which side one listens to.

The settlement, which first appeared on a City of Newark website page early Friday, ends Newark's claims that the EOWC had short changed them on transporting the latter's wastewater or sewerage through Newark's mains to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission's Newark Bay treatment plant.

Newark, since a 1919 agreement with the commission, had not charged for maintaining or repairing the mains or their interconnections that the EOWC uses to get to the PVSC plant. EOWC had, instead, been paying 8.658 percent of the cost of Newark's sewerage flow. Both Newark and East Orange, as PVSC members, use the same sewage treatment plant.

Newark, according to its settlement announcement, found on 2008-10 that the EWOC had not been making its full payments. New Jersey's largest city then sued the once-regional commission for being short-changed June 15, 2011.

The EOWC, in the agreement, is to pay Newark $5.6 million in outstanding sewer use payments. Newark, henceforth, will levy a monthly "wheeling fee" for continued transport of East Orange's sewerage.

The EOWC, furthermore, will become a direct bill customer with the PVSC. The two agreements replace their 1919 accord.

"This' a great victory for the taxpayers of the City of Newark," said Mayor Ras Baraka in Friday's announcement. "Since 1919, our residents have borne the costs associated with transmitting East Orange's sewerage and maintaining and repairing the pipes whose purpose is to move sewage from East Orange to the PVSC's treatment plant. I'm glad that the legal teams of both great municipalities have been able to resolve this matter after so long."

While Baraka sounds like he wants to run a victory lap, East Orange Mayor Ted Green took a more of a business problem resolved tone in his Aug. 14 response.

"The East Orange Board of Water Commissioners has closed yet another chapter in its efforts to rebuild our valuable water department and to restore the faith of our customers," said Green Tuesday. "We've had to make some tough choices to correct some past wrongs; however, the settlement and agreement we recently made with the City of Newark was in the best interest of our utility and constituents. We appreciate Newark's cooperation in striking an agreement that is fair to both of our municipalities and represents the best of municipal cooperation."

Neither party stated how much the 2011-18 litigation, aside from the $5.6 million arrears payment, cost the respective cities and taxpayers.

A New Jersey Superior Court-Newark judge, in 2012, appointed a special master to sort out facts in the "Newark v. EOWC" case.

Interim EOWC Executive Director Christopher Coke told "Local Talk" Aug. 13 that the Village of South Orange was initially Newark's co-plaintiff in 2011. The Village, indeed, lifted its 2011 "Notice of Emergency Relief" against the commission when the special master came aboard.

South Orange's complaint, back then, was that the EOWC had failed to notify the village and Newark of its emergency use of the latter's Holland Road Interconnection when the commission had a water supply shortage of its own. The EOWC, in the village's and Newark's joint suit, had failed to pay Newark for the interconnection's use.

"What we did was, Newark and South Orange, agreed jointly to bring an action against the commission," said Village Attorney Steven Rother June 16, 2011. "The Newark officials were very sympathetic, and we were sympathetic with them because obviously they haven't been treated in a way one would expect East Orange to treat Newark in supplying water."

South Orange, as the commission's last customer, switched its water supply to New Jersey American Water Jan. 1, 2017. The EOWC once had Orange and East Newark as its supply and/or managing customers.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, on Oct. 15, 2011, had suspended EOWC licensed operator William Mowell six months and fined him $17,000 for repeatedly failing to furnish records concerning supplying South Orange. The records would have determined why EOWC sampling were not accurate with water flow and why wells in the latter's Millburn-East Hanover field had been turned on and off.

Mowell, of Wyckoff, was sentenced to three-year prison term Dec. 12, 2014 for falsifying tetrachloroethane water level records and was banned from public employment. He and EOWC Executive Director Harry Mannsman were charged with conspiracy until Mannsman died March 24, 2014.

The EOWC woes prompted then-Mayor Lester Taylor III to appoint Coke as acting ED, brought in a water management firm and overhauled the board of commissioners.

Coke, Monday night added that South Orange had made an earlier, separate settlement with the EOWC.

Coke or the EOWC's attorney may issue a statement in the Aug. 10 settlement at its monthly Board of Water Commissioners meeting Aug. 21.