15 Sep 2014
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Water Rate Increase Approved

Water rates to increase 21 percent; village to acquire $2.7 million property.

Water Rate Increase Approved Water Rate Increase Approved

Despite a brief and barely attended public meeting last night, the Village Council approved two important measures.

A water rate increase and Schedler property acquisition faced light public questioning before a small council itself passed both ordinances.

Although the Ridgewood Water Company sought a 21 percent increase in water rates throughout the village and three nearby towns, Director Frank Moritz faced minimal comment Monday.

In fact, the only questioning came from resident Roger Wiegand, who asked about other towns' notifications.

Moritz said all three affected towns were contacted in a letter and presented with the opportunity to meet with the utility company. Members from Midland Park and Glen Rock questioned Moritz, while Wyckoff never reached out to him, Moritz said.

Wyckoff township members said they declined meeting with Moritz, citing a need for more information.

At its own public meetings, the township has protested the rate hike, despite not requesting a meeting with Moritz. Township Mayor Joseph Fiorenzo has told Patch Wyckoff could theoretically appeal to the Board of Public Utilities and/or file within the state appellate system.

Last night, Moritz said the Ridgewood Village Council meeting was really "the only appeal process. They've all been afforded the opportunity to schedule a meeting. Only two of the three towns have."

BPU official Doyal Siddell, said the group does not have jurisdiction, because Ridgewood is proposing uniform rates.

Ridgewood Water will raise rates for the first time in six years. Moritz originally approached council Oct. 7 to justify the hike.

"The bottom line is: We want to be a solvent utility. We need to raise rates to do that," Moritz said.

In total, an average household will pay $20 more a quarter, or $80 a year, he said. The rate will be $4 for every 1,000 gallons of water used. Currently, residents pay $3.32 per 1,000 gallons.

The rate increase, along with the Schedler acquisition, were approved by a four and three-member body, respectively. Mayor David Pfund was absent, and Councilwoman Anne Zusy excused herself before the Schedler vote. Council needs three members for quorum, and its remaining members—Deputy Mayor Keith Killion, and Councilmen Pat Mancuso and Paul Aronsohn—unanimously approved the Schedler move.

The village will buy the seven-acre Florence Schedler property for an estimated $100,000 more than its assessed value.

Council said it bid higher to beat out possible competitors. Resident Boyd Loving referred to Village Engineer Chris Rutishauser's statement last week in that developers were avoiding acquiring new land. Loving said he worried the overbidding would establish precedent for future village maters.

Village Attorney Matthew Rogers said no precedent was set, as every negotiation exists on its own. Additionally, he noted a property's assessed value is still different from its fair market value.

Following the Schedler approval, Mancuso commended the nearly 30-resident committee that helped secure funds to offset costs. Originally, the village received a $1 million Bergen County Open Space Grant, and recently was promised an additional $600,000.

Killion said council would decide what to do with the open space property following securing the land.

Additionally, council approved a resolution canceling nearly $17,000 in emergency funds related to a Sept. 18 water main break on North Maple and Franklin Avenues. Council originally allocated $69,150 Oct. 14 to police and water department personnel for overtime expenses. The final allocation will be $52,239.88.

Council also passed two budgetary resolutions allowing operating expenses and debt service to be paid until a 2010 budget is adopted.

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