Several issues were raised during the public comments during Tuesday’s Stafford Township Council with the newly enacted water and sewer rates dominating much of the conversation.
Dave Taylor, co-owner of Taylor Made Cabinets, questioned why when rates were dramatically raised on commercial properties, records indicate the large shopping centers are paying less overall than they did before.
“The stores in the Shop Rite and Lowes shopping center paid $11,789 less, yet small businesses are paying more,” said Taylor, who is also a candidate for township council running against the incumbent council.
Township Administrator James Moran explained that when the new rates went into effect the surcharges charged under the old system were eliminated throughout the township. “The larger box stores were paying a much higher surcharge,” said Moran. The new rates have eliminated the surcharges in attempt to level the playing field for everyone, added Moran, who is also the director of the township’s Water and Sewer Utility.
He said there is a new plan currently under review and will be introduced by ordinance in the near future to restructure the commercial rates which should help small businesses.
Eileen Zawacki, Lynn Ann Lane, wanted to know why her bill was more than her neighbor’s when she used less than the allotted 14,000 gallons and her neighbor used more, she claimed.
The new rates now in place charge a flat residential usage fee of $110 per quarter for water, including the first 14,000 gallons. More usage would incur more charges based on the amount used.
“I have a CS degree, that’s common sense, and I don’t understand it,” she said. “I’m going to put a sign up on my street saying free showers and come do your laundry for free to use up my water,” she added, prompting laughter throughout the chamber.
Moran said in this particular case he would have to see both bills to figure out the discrepancy and invited Zawacki to set a meeting with him at a later date.
Moran also said the 14,000 number was set by looking at what the average usage was per household per quarter, said Moran.
When Patrica Jones, Shore Avenue, said that the 14,000 gallons was far more than she uses and that it places an undue expense on her and others. “It’s a big chunk of change,” she said. “I’m sure everyone is looking for some relief (next year),” said added.
After Jones comments, Councilman Robert Kusnikow asked Moran if next year’s rates will be based on usage, especially for those using less. “There is no incentive for people to conserve (water), when they are forced to pay these bills,” he said. “The less you are going to use, the more you are going to pay just doesn’t make sense to me,” he added.
Moran said that rates based solely on usage would not cover the cost of the system. There are 4500 homes in one section of the township, presumably Beach Haven West, that are closed up for the winter but they still pay the quarterly base rate, he said. If the authority billed strictly on usage the cost could be up to 10 times more than by using a base rate system.
Mayor John Spodofora then told Kusnikow they were scheduling meetings to look into the usage rates among other issues before announcing the 2013 rates.
In a related matter, the council earlier voted unanimously to approve awarding a $589,625 contract to to DSC Construction of Bayville to install new water mains along Morris Boulevard.
CORRECTION: The residental base rate for water in Staford is $50, not $110. The base sewer rate is $110. SM