East Orange, NJ, April 21, 2017: East Orange Mayor Lester E. Taylor III served as a guest panelist during the Water Now Alliance’s Annual Summit “Catalyzing Action” held in Boulder, Colorado April 20-21. The Annual Summit brings together dynamic finance, communications and water policy experts with forward -thinking public officials to explore how to jumpstart critical solutions that will accelerate sustainable water solutions and create more resilient cities and towns.
During the April 21st session “Water for All: Stories of Equity & Affordability,” Mayor Taylor shared how East Orange has successfully implemented innovative and cost-effective measures to turnaround the once maligned East Orange Water Commission. He was joined by fellow panelists: George Hawkins, Esq., DC Water; Commissioner Heather Repenning, City of LA Board of Public Works; Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish, Environmental Center, CU Boulder; and De’Sean Quinn, Councilmember, Tukwila, WA, who served as moderator.
The comeback story of the East Orange Water Commission (EOWC) is one that is rare among municipalities with demographics like East Orange, a predominantly black community with ownership of its own water supply. After inheriting an EOWC that suffered from aging infrastructure, fiscal and technical mismanagement, and a damaged reputation due to ethical and criminal misconduct by former employees, Mayor Taylor’s administration installed a new Board of Commissioners and entered a contract with Veolia North America. Since entering the contract in April 2015, East Orange’s partnership with Veolia has produced thousands of dollars in cost savings, closed a $4 million shortfall in six months, increased training and maximized productivity. Projected savings is estimated to be 15-20% savings over the next three years.
Last year, the East Orange City Council approved a $23.4M bond to support additional improvements that are aligned with long-term plans developed to further enhance the water system. A $5.2M construction project, which includes the installation of air stripper devices to reduce volatile compounds, was completed in July.
As East Orange continues to emerge as a national model of urban excellence in municipal water management. Mayor Taylor has been invited to serve on several national water panels, including during the National League of Cities’ City Summit in Pittsburgh, PA and the American Water Summit in Miami, Florida, as well as sessions during the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“During a time when water crises are impacting communities across the globe, I am proud to represent East Orange as an example of good governance, innovation and investment,” said Mayor Taylor. “While our choices may not have always been popular, they were always made with the best interest of our residents and customers in mind. The quality of our drinking water is a resource we simply cannot afford to lose.”