The South Orange Village Board of Trustees voted on Monday night to raise the water rate by five cents in order to help cover the costs of transferring to a new water supplier.
The ordinance (2015-17) “to establish a rate of seventy center ($0.70) per one hundred cubic feet of water to cover Township of South Orange Village cost of water services” passed unanimously — although Trustee Deborah Davis Ford was not present for the vote.
The former rate was $0.65 per one hundred cubic feet of water.
Village Administrator Barry Lewis explained that the increase was necessary as the town “weens” itself off the East Orange Water Company (EOWC) contract for water supply and management. “This will help offset our expenses moving to a new water supplier,” said Lewis.
In January, the Board of Trustees voted to switch to New Jersey American Water Company for the purchase of water, after years of legal wrangling with the East Orange Water Company over water quality. The contract with NJ American Water begins December 31, 2016.
Although NJ American Water will pick up the cost of interconnecting lines and creating redundancies at a pumping station to ensure enough pumping capacity, as well as an electric generator at the pumping station, Trustee Howard Levison explained via email, “There are two components of the water initiative.” The first is to the water supply/source (NJAW). “The second is what is called O&M (Operations and Maintenance) that we have recently RFP’ed and are now reviewing the responses which will include costs for ‘CI/MI’ – Capital Improvements and Maintenance Improvements that we will be our responsibility to which these funds will contribute.”
Levison further explained, “We also have engaged a consulting firm to provide a ten-year capital program and the design of a control system that maintains the balance of flows, pressures and storage within the system.”
When asked in a follow-up email how the price increase would impact individual customers, Lewis said he could not speak to the average bill “as EOWC does all of the billing. However, on the overall bill, this increase represents an increase in the rate of about 1.2%.”
On Monday, Village Counsel Steve Rother reported that the Village had received three proposals for a contract to operate and maintain the South Orange water system. Rother said that the Village would make the terms of the contract awarded public once a vendor is selected. Rother said that the contract will then be subject to a public hearing, with review by the Department of Environmental Protection and approval by the Local Finance Board and the Board of Public Utilities.
Rother also noted that plans for the pumping station in the Department of Public Works yard would be reviewed at the September 2 Planning Board meeting.