Water company told rates were to decrease, not rise

By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

Water company told rates
were to decrease, not rise
By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

HOWELL — Within days of an announced 23 percent rate increase, a New Jersey-American Water Company representative told the mayor and Township Council that she couldn’t answer questions about the pending rate rise, but would relay their questions back to the company.

Gloria Gledhill, the firm’s local government affairs officer, fielded questions about the pending rate increase during the company’s annual presentation to the governing body.

Deputy Mayor Peter Tobasco asked about the company’s promise to Howell four years ago that if the company expanded then rates in Howell would be reduced or at least sustained.

Mayor Timothy J. Konopka, who was involved in the successful fight against a proposed increase, told Gledhill incremental increases for parts of Howell were part of the court order issued at the time of the rate increase hearings four years ago.

In fact, Konopka said, according to the terms of the order, "we thought we would go down, not up," referring to the water rates Howell customers pay.

Councilwoman Cynthia Schomaker said it was her understanding that within two years of those rate increase hearings four years ago, all of the water company’s customers in the township would finally be paying the same rates for water, which is not the case. Different rates are charged throughout the township.

Gledhill said she would take the officials’ concerns back to the company for an answer, because she couldn’t speak on financial issues.

She said New Jersey-American would be merging with the Elizabethtown Water Company, doubling the company’s customer base from one million to two million ratepayers.

Councilman Juan Malave related his concern over the company’s road openings not being properly filled in.

"Please let them know that we’re concerned with the way the roads are left once they open them up," Malave said.

Township Engineer William Nunziato voiced concern over recent water main breaks and how to address the problem in the future.

Gledhill acknowledged there could be problems with contractors, but nothing that could not be taken care of if the company is made aware of it. She said she would schedule a meeting with Nunziato and the appropriate water company personnel.

In another vein, Gledhill said she wanted to warn the community about possible frauds and scams. She said if a company representative comes to a home for any reason, identification cards with their photographs on them will be shown.

She said consumers need to know there are scam artists who sometimes say they are working for a utility company such as New Jersey-American in order to gain access to a person’s home.

She said if anyone claims to be from the company and does not provide official photo identification, the consumer should call police and then contact the water company and inform them of the incident.