No more delay on GEMS solar panels

Gloucester Township Council must move on turning landfill into an asset.

Ever since Republican Cindy Rau-Hatton won the mayor's office in Gloucester Township three years ago, there's been political strife in the township.

A refusal to partner with the Republican mayor, or perhaps some unexplained delay, might be why the Democrat-controlled township council has failed to thus far strike a deal to turn the toxic GEMS Landfill into a money-making asset for the township. It's a question township residents ought to pose at the next council meeting.

Over the last few years, several firms have come forward to express interest in compensating the township for the right to put solar panels atop the closed landfill.

What town, if given the opportunity in this lousy economy, wouldn't jump at the chance to turn a useless, toxic mound into a revenue stream that could also provide cheap electricity? Apparently Gloucester Township, where despite Rau-Hatton's proddings last spring to act quickly or miss a state window on special tax credits, virtually nothing has been done in a year to get solar panels built atop the landfill.

The township council created a subcommittee to study the presentations by three companies last year that all wanted to erect solar panels at GEMS. That committee hasn't met in months, according to the mayor.

Councilwoman Crystal Evans, a Democrat, says the mayor has been "kind of drowned out by council" and that "unfortunately, politics is a little bit in the way."

Eugene Lawrence, a former township councilman and a member of the solar subcommittee has long been a believer in solar panels at the landfill and wants to see something done. He says the council must act.

"They (council) could have gotten (financial) information simply by putting out a request for proposals," Lawrence said. "Every company that I have taken out there has said this is just perfect. We have to do it. . . . It's time to get smart."

It's hard to fathom why the township council hasn't worked with the mayor and the subcommittee to move quickly on this, especially with another increase in the municipal property tax being weighed for next year. There are (or at least there were) eager companies ready to build. The landfill is generating no income in its current state.

If partisan politics is all that's holding this project up, then that's a true shame for Gloucester Township taxpayers. If there's some other reason for the delay, then that should be clearly explained to residents, who ought to question their elected officials as to why a win-win project that could provide clean energy while helping to defray a tax increase hasn't come to pass.

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