As the township committee continues to discuss why residents have been paying a higher sewer connection fee than those in neighboring communities for years, one committeeman is asking officials to consider lowering the fee by $1,500.
The fee, which was proposed to cost $6,628 under an ordinance discussed at the Dec. 11 meeting, is required of residents to be able to use sewer service in the township. An additional fee is needed for the hook-up itself.
"This connection fee is not what we charge to connect you. It is the fee we charge for the privilege to connect," Committeeman Scott Gallopo said.
Gallopo said he has researched the issue since the Dec. 4 meeting, when he first brought lowering the connection fee up, and consulted with Township Attorney Martin Murphy. According to Gallopo, the township may have some leeway when it comes to the fees.
"We have been charging at the cap for many years and, given the burden that's on our residents, both with the user fees and property taxes, I think we should take any opportunity where we can to lower certain fees and rates and I think this should be one of them," Gallopo said.
In the past, the fee has not been adjusted for new residents of the township. That way, new residents have also been responsible for the cost burden that longer residents of the township had incurred.
Mayor Tim Braden asked how changing the fee could still be fair for residents if the ordinance were passed on Dec. 11.
"No one will be connecting in the next three weeks but someone who were to connect in January would be paying less than the person who walked in the door today," he said.
Gallopo said the connection fee should have been evaluated several years ago and questioned whether the township has flexibility in the fee-calculating formula that is established by state statute. Committeeman Jim Sandham said the fee has been been evaluated in the past.
"It is by state statute but we decided to go with the maximum," Sandham said.
As officials agreed to gather more information on the history of the connection fee, Gallopo noted that he felt lowering the fee was in the best interest of the community.
"I believe that this also handicaps development and it's not business-friendly and it's certainly not resident-friendly," he said.