Burlington County freeholders are giving residents a chance to have their voice be heard in the county’s fight against the 20 percent rate increase sought by New Jersey American Water (NJAW).
The county has created an online petition for residents to formally register their opposition. The petition not only expresses opposition to the rate increase, but also calls for another round of public hearings, with all ratepayers to be notified by mail of the dates, times and places of the hearings.
Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio said the law permits the company to provide such notices—but that it declined to do so.
The petition reads:
We, the undersigned, call on New Jersey American Water to hold another round of public hearings in Burlington County on its proposed 20 percent rate increase and to provide proper and complete notice of the hearings through the mail, directed to ratepayers, as provided by law. We urge the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the New Jersey Rate Counsel, and the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law to reject the rate petition and to compel the company to provide hearings and hearing notices as indicated.
and have both passed resolutions opposing the rate hike, along with several other Burlington County municipalities. County spokesman Ralph Shrom said 23 of the county’s 40 municipalities would be directly affected by NJAW’s rate increase.
Moorestown financial officer Tom Merchel said the rate hike, if it went through, could cost the township roughly $500,000 annually.
Garganio noted the county has cut taxes $8.6 million over four years and said NJAW “should also be part of the solution” for residents struggling to get by in the down economy.
“I have to ask myself,” he said, “why am I struggling through these county budgets, why am I cutting taxes, when a monopoly like New Jersey American Water can come along and set its sights on a 20 percent rate increase—having already accumulated 51 percent worth of increases since 2004?
“More than half our towns are affected by this greedy grab. And yes, I’m speaking up. And I’m not letting go. And neither should any of you.”