The Morris County Improvement Authority (MCIA) has voted unanimously to accept the resignations of its longtime counsel, Stephen Pearlman, and energy consultant Gabel Associates, who both officially notified the Authority tonight that they will resign effective June 1.
The MCIA board agreed to immediately start the process of seeking replacements to ensure a smooth transition to handle key, ongoing projects.
Pearlman, of the firm Pearlman and Miranda, has been MCIA counsel since the authority was formed in 2002. In separate letters to the Authority, Pearlman and Steve Gabel, president Gabel Associates, both agreed to remain available to the county during a “reasonable transition period’’ at no cost to the county, to ensure continuity for key projects, such as the county’s Solar I and Solar II projects.
“It has been an unconditional honor and privilege to serve the Authority and its Commissioners, who give freely of their time and effort without compensation, since its inception more than a decade ago,’’ Pearlman said in his letter. “I am proud to have been associated with the Authority during this period, and will continue to value the friendships created during that span long after this association has officially ended.’’
“The firm and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to provide consulting services to the Authority,’’ wrote Gabel.
MCIA Vice-Chairwoman Christina Ramirez said Pearlman played an integral role in the creation and success of the Authority, guiding a host of projects that helped schools, towns and other government agencies finance worthwhile projects and reap substantial savings.
“Steve Pearlman has been a great asset to the MCIA and the county, helping to move us forward on many innovative and cost saving projects, benefitting many schools, towns and county government agencies, and the taxpayers of Morris County,’’ said Ramirez. “We thanks Steve for his efforts and wish him the very best. He will be tough to replace.’’
“We thank Steve Gabel and his firm for their hard work on behalf of the county’s solar projects,’’ added MCIA Member Ellen Sandman. “We will be hard pressed to replace their institutional knowledge.’’
MCIA officials this week stressed that new leadership is quickly needed to replace Pearlman as counsel, to bring on someone who is capable to guide the county on existing projects, especially its solar programs.
In response to and at the direction of previous freeholder boards, the MCIA undertook two Renewable Energy Programs. The MCIA in 2009 received approval from the State Local Finance Board for its initial Renewable Energy Program, which was the first of its kind in the nation. MCIA was able to issue bonds, guaranteed by the county, to finance a solar program, with solar panels installed on municipal school and county government buildings, with a goal of an environmental and economic benefit, in the form of lower power costs, to participants.
While, to date those programs have been able to reduce energy costs for participants by a total of $440,000 a year, the county‘s solar program has run into some significant financial and legal hurdles in recent months.
MCIA officials said yesterday the county is actively working to address all issues relating to its Solar I and II programs. That effort began with the county settling all outstanding litigation regarding the Solar II project and making a $7 million settlement to pay for construction of the completed Solar II sites.
There are several challenging issues left to be resolved — whether to build the remaining sites in Solar II, finding a replacement operator for Solar I, resolving the shortfalls in revenue necessary to pay debt service on Solar I and Solar II Bonds (projected at a $9.2 million aggregate in Solar II), and also developing a possible exit strategy from the solar business for the county.
A new Improvement Authority professional team will be key to providing guidance and advice on these issues. The county will continue to provide as information and updates to keep the public informed.
Since the Improvement Authority was established by the Morris County Freeholders, it has been providing municipalities, school districts and the county itself with innovative and cost effective methods of funding projects and saving tax dollars at the same time. By using the MCIA and the county’s AAA Bond rating to finance projects, such as equipment and vehicle purchases and school and municipal construction, local officials have been able to cut costs and thereby and help reduce the property tax burden on residents.
For more information on the MCIA, please visit: https://improvement.morriscountynj.gov/
For more information on the MCIA’s Renewable Energy Program, please visit: https://improvement.morriscountynj.gov/2012/10/renewable-energy-program-produces.html