Middle school will host hearing on rate increase


HOWELL – A public hearing on the New Jersey American Water Co.’s proposed 23.35 percent rate increase will be held at the Howell Memorial Middle School, Route 524 (Adelphia Road), at 7 p.m. April 23.

The hearing in Howell was added at the behest of state Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer, Burlington), who wrote to state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) President Jeanne Fox after an initial group of public hearing dates was announced.

Hearings to gather consumers’ input on the proposed rate hike were held on April 2 in Ocean City, Cape May County, and in Westhampton, Burlington County; on April 3 in Eatontown, Monmouth County, and in Maplewood, Essex County; and on April 4 in Hamilton, Mercer County.

Howell officials lobbied for a hearing to be held in their municipality. Singer’s letter to Fox apparently convinced the BPU to provide residents with another chance to comment on the looming rate hike.

Singer said the decision to hold a hearing in Howell is an example that government works. He said he wanted to make certain that residents in his legislative district who are serviced by the New Jersey American Water Co. have a chance to be heard.

Mayor Joseph DiBella called the news of a local hearing “terrific.”

“I am very grateful, but it is unfortunate that we had to lobby for it. The people looking at the proposed rate increase need to hear from the residents and look the people in the eye, and feel the frustration that our residents are experiencing,” the mayor said.

Township Manager Helene Schlegel, said, “We are very appreciative that Sen. Singer’s office stepped in to assist us. I hope that all residents will come to the hearing and fight the New JerseyAmericanWater Company on their proposal for a double-digit rate hike, which we find to be unacceptable.”

If the BPU grants the water company the full requested increase of 23.35 percent, a customer who currently pays about $44 a month for 7,000 gallons of water would pay about $54 a month for that same amount of water, according to information provided by the firm.