Montville Sewer Rate Reduction May Be in Jeopardy
Town owes more to Parsippany waste water treatment plant than projected and municipal officials are unsure whether lowering rates in January will be feasible.
New technology at the Parsippany-Troy Hills Wastewater Treatment Plant has affected cost figures for what Montville Township owes to use the facility, causing township officials to second-guess whether the lower sewer rates promised to ratepayers beginning in January can be put into effect.
The 16 million-gallon-per-day plant, which underwent renovations this year, serves Parsippany-Troy Hills, Montville, East Hanover, Mountain Lakes and a portion of Denville. Those municipalities share the cost of sewer service, paying a percentage of the total cost to service the sewage that goes through the plant based on what each town uses.
As part of the plant renovations, temporary meters with more advanced technology have been installed and showed one of the municipalities, Parsippany, brought less sewage through the plant than originally anticipated by the older meters. As a result, the cost burden will be shifted to the other communities, as each town's percentage of use is higher than what was anticipated when municipal budgets were developed.
Township Commiteeman Scott Gallopo summarized the issue and how it will impact Montville at Tuesday's Montville Township Commitee meeting.
"[Parsippany Utility's] expenses, as a result of their plant upgrades, have dropped significantly. Our percentge of the volume has gone up," he said.
Now Montville Township's portion of the cost could go up significantly, Gallopo said. But he said it was not something committee members could have known about ahead of time.
"You can't predict a change in the measure from a new flow meter," he said. "Even the treatment plant never saw that coming."
Montville Township Administrator Victor Canning also said the township was unaware of the potential for the increased costs, particularly not when the township committee agreed to issue lower rates beginning next year.
"We didn't know this was going to happen," Canning said Friday. "We went on as if, in our world, everything was fine."
In June, township officials voted to give ratepayers a sewer fee "holiday" through the end of this year to return about $4 million in surplus money that was generated over the past several years. The township's Long Term Financial Planning Committee (LTFPC) also recommended that the township adopt a new, lower rate schedule to take effect in January, which was approved by the township committee in June.
Canning told the township committee Tuesday the lower rates may not be enough for Montville to pay the treatment plant what is needed now that the township's percentage of the cost burden has increased. The difference, which Canning said would now have to be budgeted for, is between $350,000 and $400,000.
"This isn't anything the township committee, the administration, or the [LTFPC] is at fault for," Canning said. "We didn't know it was out there, we didn't know it was coming until we were told and then, unfortunately, it was too late."
Canning noted that Parsippany Mayor James Barberio has promised to help the municipalities with the issue.
"Mayor Barberio has been very accommodating. He understands the dilemma, he has never ever suggested that if this turns out to be a financial issue, he would turn a blind eye on it," Canning said.
At Tuesday's meeting, Montville Mayor Tim Braden said the township committee will have to take some more time to figure out if the lower rates can still be put in effect. He commended the work Committeeman Jim Sandham and other township officials have done looking into the issue and said it will be discussed at future meetings.
"We probably weren't paying our fair share in the past and now we will in the future," he said. "We were on a 'holiday' for quite a while."