Township Council members are slated to approve a resolution tonight opposing United Water Toms River's recent request for a 24 percent rate increase, Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher said.
"It's excessive and they got a raise a couple of years ago," Kelaher said today.
United Water Toms River services roughly 120,000 homes in Toms River, along with Holiday City, Silver Ridge Park and the Manitou Park sections of Berkeley Township.
The increase the company is asking the state Board of Public Utilities for would raise the average monthly residential bill an additonal $9.39 to $47.10.
United Water Operations Director Rick Pfleiderer said the increase is needed to recover roughly $18 million in water system improvements the company has made or is currently working on since its last rate filing three years ago.
“We fully recognize that nobody likes to see any increase in their water rates," Pfleiderer said. "However, this filing is related to improvements we have made and are currently making to the water treatment and water distribution system that directly benefit our customers. We are very mindful of our costs and have been completely transparent in our explanation of the need for rate relief to our customers and elected officials.”
Pfleiderer said the company has invested nearly $5.6 million in new water transmission mains - replacing older mains and also new mains - to bring service to new customers. In addition, United Water installed distribution mains to help with system redundancy in an effort to improve service reliability and fire fighting pressure.
The company also invested $2.7 million improving the process at its Berkeley Water Treatment Plant, which eliminates radionuclides from the drinking water, and at its Holly Water Treatment Plant, which treats volatile organic chemicals, he said.
United Water also made improvements to its aquifer storage and recovery wells to improve its ability to provide water during the crucial summer months, Pfleiderer said.
“We’ve made some significant investments to improve and maintain quality service for our customers,” he said. “These improvements were necessary for us to continue to ensure the safety and reliability of our water system and to meet increasingly stringent water quality regulations."
United Water also launched a new $3.5 million customer information and billing computer system last fall, Pfleiderer said.
The upgrade of the customer service system coincided with the implementation of a $2.8 million investment in a new, automatic meter reading system. The new meters send electronic signal which are picked up by a data reader. The new system eliminates the need for meter readers, Pfleiderer said.
Nevertheless, township officials oppose the increase, Kelaher said.
"It's fair to say the Township Council will oppose it," he said.