BERKELEY – Bayville residents and businesses who use Aqua New Jersey water will be paying more by September if the state Board of Public Utilities approves the company’s request for a rate hike.
Company officials say the increase is needed to help pay for increased capital expenditures and a “trend of declining revenues,” which have reduced Aqua’s earnings, according to the company’s website.
Aqua wants to raise the rates by 18.7 percent, to produce additional revenues of approximately $7,201,793 annually, New Jersey Aqua President John Hildabrant said in a March 7 letter to township officials.
“Petitioner’s present rates for water service are not adequate to meet those increased expenses, support the required capital improvement programs, and provide Petitioner with a reasonable return on its investment in utility plant,” Aqua wrote in a letter to the BPU.
Berkeley Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. isn’t happy about Aqua’s request.
“These are difficult economic times for everyone,” Amato said. “For Aqua Water to be asking for an 18.7 percent increase is unconscionable.”
Aqua also wants an increase in the usage fee from $5.41 per 1,000 gallons to $6.49 for each 1,000 gallons.
“If these increases were to be approved, the average residential customer that uses 5,000 gallons per month, will see their monthly bill rise approximately $11 per month or $132 a year,” Amato said.
The proposed increase would affect roughly 4,000 Bayville businesses and residences, he said.
Aqua also wants to increase charges for private and public fire companies by 16.1 percent and to increase the fire charges for some towns so that they “are closer to the overall system average public fire rate.”
“…the Company believes that this proposal will not create undue hardship, will assist Aqua’s municipalities and fire districts, and will better align its rates to the customers benefitting from the services they receive,” according to the letter.
Amato plans to ask Township Council members to pass a resolution opposing the increases and asking Township Attorney Lauren R. Staiger to intervene to fight the hike.
“We promise now to use any resources at our disposal to vigorously fight these proposed rate increases,” the mayor said.
Aqua will hold two public hearings on the rate increases, one in March and the other in April.
The first public hearing will be held at 4 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m. on March 28 at the Hamilton Township Free Public Library at 1 Justice Samuel A. Alito Way in Hamilton.
The second public hearing will be held at 1 p.m. and at 3 p.m. on April 1 at the Gloucester Township Blackwood Public Library at 15 S. Black Horse Pike in Blackwood.
Customers using Aqua water had been angry that the water was discolored, which Aqua said was due to iron. They had a plan to decrease the amount of iron in the water, but it hadn’t started yet.
A company spokesperson told township officials that the first iron removal site should be finished sometime in May. The third and last site should be done by mid to late July.
“All told, we expect all sites to be up and running and the project wrapped during August, but obviously weather or other factors could push time frames slightly,” the spokesperson said.