PRINCETON: Described as a ‘major screw-up,’ some residents to be billed for past sewer work

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
About 300 property owners in Princeton will be billed for sewer work and inspections that in some cases happened 10 years ago and even before some people bought their homes.
Officials said this week it was a mistake on the town’s part for why the assessments are so late, as the amounts that residents will have to pay vary from less than $100 to more than $1,000.The town said the work consisted mainly of replacing sewer laterals.
Princeton Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said this week that the town ought to apologize to impacted residents for making “a major screw-up.”
The town said the mistake happened at the end of the process of confirming the final cost of sewer work, a process that involves a series of steps.
Municipal staff has to certify that the project was completed and what the cost was. From there, it goes to a council-appointed body called the Board of Improvement Assessors, who have to confirm that certification and then send it to the Princeton Council for final confirmation.
Once that council approval happens, the municipal finance department can send property owners bills telling them how much they have to pay. They have up to 10 years to pay off the assessment, at 2 percent interest a year.
Officials this week sought to say what steps will be taken to avoid a repeat.
“We’ve also talked internally regarding trying to put some mechanisms in place so this never happens again,” said municipal director of operations and infrastructure Robert Hough at Monday’s council meeting.
One idea is to make sure the Board of Assessors has regularly scheduled meetings, as opposed to the current arrangement when that body meets only when it is asked to. More regular meetings of that board will enable the status of assessments to be tracked better, the town said.
“One of the things that we’re going to do moving forward is actually have them meet,” town administrator Marc D. Dashield said. “They will have a list of any assessments that are done, so that they’ll be the mechanism in which everyone can see that there’s an assessment out there.”
During the council meeting, Councilwoman Jo S. Butler sought to get to the bottom of the matter.
“Were the assessors not just meeting? Is that what happened?” she asked assistant administrator Kathryn Monzo.
“They don’t have regularly scheduled meetings. It’s really prompted when staff gets together the information and we bring it to them,” Ms. Monzo responded. “So it really, over the years, this just kept getting pushed back.”