Water rate hike coming?
Not sure if this rate hike will find it’s way to Hoboken, but Uniter Water Toms River just raised their rates 90%, angering South Jersey residents:
United Water customers steamed over ‘outrageous’ 90% rate hike
A stream of angry United Water Toms River customers expressed their frustrations Monday on the historically troubled water purveyor’s request for a more than 90 percent rate increase.
One by one, they approached a microphone in the Ritacco Center on the campus of Toms River High School North, to address New Jersey Administrative Law Judge Walter M. Braswell, and representatives of the water company, state Board of Public Utilities and state Division of Rate Counsel.
The rate increase United Water requested from the BPU in March is “”outrageous, indecent and shameful,” Michael Spitz, 54, who owns properties throughout Toms River, told the panel. Spitz was one of about 75 people who showed up at the 3 p.m. hearing. A second hearing was held at 7 p.m.
Attorneys for Toms River’s two fire districts, and Toms River Council President Gregory P. McGuckin, said government entities would be forced to cut costs in other areas to come up with the funds to afford the increased rates. By state law, the township cannot increase its budget by more than 4 percent per year, they said.
“All that money has to come from someplace else,” McGuckin said.
Read the rest after the jump…
(United Water Toms River rate increase, continued…)
Coming up with the money to pay for the increased fees for fire hydrants “”could compromise fire protection,” said Richard Braslow, attorney for Toms River Fire District Number 2.
At issue is whether the BPU will allow the water company to raise its rates. The rate increase would be the first implemented by the company in 13 years. Under the request, a typical monthly residential bill of $19.06 would increase by about $17.64 to $36.70, about 59 cents more per day, according to the water company.
United Water Toms River provides water to roughly 122,000 customers in Toms River, South Toms River and Berkeley. The company’s spokesman, Richard Henning, has said the rate increase is needed to finance more than $57 million in investments that the company has made over the past 13 years, and to cover gas, electric and chemical costs that have increased more than 200 percent over the same period.
The company has asked to phase in the increase over two years, with half the increase taking effect by late this year, and the other half by late next year, according to the company.
“Our goal is to deliver quality water to our customers in the most cost effective manner,” Nadine Leslie, vice president and general manager of United Water Toms River, said Monday.
Leslie sat on stage, as residents complained about the company’s history, their water service, and how such an increase would effect their budgets. Many said they understand rate hikes are needed, but said that the one requested is too drastic.
In the past, Toms River township officials said United Water lost credibility as a result of several problems, including exceeding its state water-allocation permit, failing to report seven instances of elevated radiation levels in its system, and the indictments of two former managers accused of tampering with water-quality test results. Toms River has filed a petition with the BPU to revoke the water company’s franchise. A decision on the matter is pending.
But Henning, United Water spokesman, has said his company has taken several steps since January 2006 to restore public confidence, including hiring new managers, installing new water treatment technology and changing policies and procedures for testing.
Monday, many customers remained angry.
“Your water stinks,” Vincent Kugler of Berkeley remarked, as he held a pair of hand towels he said were discolored after his wife washed them in water provided by the company.
“United Water does not deserve to be rewarded for mismanagement and unsafe water,” said Edith Gbur of Berkeley, the chairperson of the civics committee at Holiday City West.
Gbur presented the panel with a petition with about 250 signatures of people against the rate hike.
Judge Braswell, the administrative law judge the BPU assigned to the proceedings, told speakers their questions and comments would be included in the case’s official record. The Office of Administrative Law will hold evidentiary hearings in August, when the Rate Counsel, charged with investigating the request, and the company will present witnesses and evidence on the issue, Braswell said.
McGuckin, Toms River Council President, recommended those hearings be held in Ocean County instead of Newark, so more residents could attend.
After the hearings, Braswell said he will file his report on the matter to the BPU, which has final say on the decision. Some speakers complained that BPU commissioners did not attend the hearing, but Braswell said the commissioners can look back at hearing transcripts, and he will ensure that their comments are considered