Pennington water, sewer rate-hike vote delayed

Council members say the proposed rate hike, which would cover all of 2006, is needed to balance the water and sewer budget

By John Tredrea
   Pennington’s public water and sewer customers would see a 24 percent rate increase this year if an ordinance authorizing the rate hike is adopted by the Borough Council on Feb. 27.
   Introduced last month, the proposed ordinance originally was scheduled for a public hearing and adoption vote Feb. 6. That meeting was postponed to Feb. 13, but because the proposed measure was not republished as a legal notice in time for an adoption vote to occur Feb. 13, the vote has been pushed back until the 27th, Borough Council President David Garber said Monday night.
   Council members say the proposed rate hike, which would cover all of 2006, is needed to balance the water and sewer budget.
   Councilman Joseph Lawver noted that, prior to an 8 percent water and sewer increase last year, there had been no rate increases for six years.
   Mr. Lawver said council was able to hold last year’s rate increase to 8 percent because of a one-time payment of $100,000 to the borough from the Hopewell Valley Regional School District. The payment was for connecting an addition to Central High School into the borough’s public water and sewer system.
   Mr. Lawver added that the fees the borough pays the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority (SBRSA) for sewage treatment are expected to go up $40,000 this year. Pennington’s sewage is treated at an SBRSA plant just east of the borough, off Pennington-Rocky Hill Road in Hopewell Township. The plant is on the Stony Brook.
   Another new debit in this year’s water and sewer budget is $57,000 in debt service on a new $1.3 million Public Works building, expected to be complete in about a year.
   Rates in the proposed ordinance are based on water meter size. The most common size by far, less than 1 inch in diameter, is found in most residential properties in the borough. Those users would pay $22.80 for up to 4,000 gallons of water if the proposed ordinance is adopted, up from $18.40 in the current ordinance.
   At the other end of the spectrum are users whose water meters are 6 inches, the largest size covered by the proposed ordinance. For the first 4,000 gallons, these users would pay $610.70 under the proposed ordinance, up from $492.50 in the current ordinance.
   There are six meter sizes covered by the ordinance, ranging from less than 1 inch to 6 inches. For all six sizes, the quarterly charge for each 1,000 gallons of water between 4,000 gallons and 100,000 gallons would increase from $4.30 to $5.35. For over 100,000 gallons, it would increase from $4.85 to $6 for every 1,000 gallons.