By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Montclair residents are expected to see another charge to their water bill that will increase water costs by between $25 and $62.25 a quarter for most households. The new addition will add an infrastructure charge.
Water quarterly rates have not increased since 2017, but bills could rise by 73% to 187% for most residential consumers in July if the Township Council votes through the new charge on Tuesday night.
Most residents whose water service line is one inch or smaller currently pay $34 per period, paid four times a year, according to township officials. This charge, which saw a $1 hike each year from 2015 to 2017, includes 7,480 gallons of water for the quarter. For each additional 748 gallons used, residents pay a rate of $3.74 during January, February, March, October, November and December. From April through September, the rate jumps to $4.49.
From 2015 through 2017, the rate for each additional 748 gallons averaged an annual increase of about 11 cents during non-peak times and 31 cents during peak season, but saw no increase from 2018. Those additional water usage rates would not increase under the ordinance the council will consider.
The new ordinance creating the new infrastructure charge however breaks down service lines sizes one inch or less into three new categories with incremental increases:
- Lines that are 5/8 inch x 3/4 inch would see a $25 increase.
- Lines that are 3/4 inch would increase by $37.50.
- Lines that are 1 inch would increase by $62.25.
Most households have a water service line of 1 inch or less.
Gary Obszarny, director of the Water Bureau and Sewer Utility, has not yet returned a message left on Friday to explain why these charges will be broken down below one-inch line sizes.
Obszarny told the council at its April 6 meeting that the increase was needed due to the New Jersey Water Quality Accountability Act in 2017, which established new requirements for purveyors of public water to improve the safety, reliability and administrative oversight of water infrastructure.
“The water utility has a need for capital funds in order to maintain quality and remain compliant with the WQAA and evolving standards,” the ordinance states.
Padmaja Rao, the township’s chief financial officer, said Montclair is also dealing with an aging water delivery system dating back to 1890s to early 1900s, and that at least 90 miles of water service lines need replacing.
Councilman Peter Yacobellis suggested that the increase be put off until the end of the year, when the township could apply for funds from infrastructure initiatives in the federal American Jobs Plan, of which $111 billion is proposed to be set aside for local water infrastructure improvements. President Joseph Biden has proposed the federal plan, and it’s being debated and negotiated by members of Congress.
“It’s long overdue,” Rao said about Montclair improvements, adding that waiting will only increase costs with replacement projects.
For businesses with water service lines over 1 inch, the increases will range from
$124.50 for a 1.5-inch line to $4,967 for a 10-inch line.
The township purchases about 5.7 million gallons a day from North Jersey District Water Supply Commission. The township paid the utility $1,781,053 last year, according to township spokesperson Katya Wowk. It then bills residents based on usage.
Seniors can apply for 25% discounts through the water department.