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Phillipsburg eyes first sewer rate increase in 16 years

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 04 2012 08:54:35 PM CST
PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. -

For the first time in nearly two decades, Phillipsburg Sewer Utility users are facing an increase in the rates they pay.

During Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting, Mayor Harry Wyant Jr. discussed the plan to raise sewer rates by 2 percent to provide needed capital for utility upkeep and improvements.

Wyant said the increase, the first since 1996, would have a very minimal impact on users’ sewer bills while restoring utility capital that has been depleted over the years.

Wyant estimates the 2 percent increase would translate to a quarterly increase of between $1 and $1.50 for the average residential user in Phillipsburg.

The four surrounding municipalities that receive sewer service from the Phillipsburg utility would be charged a 2 percent increase, Wyant said. They include the townships of Greenwich, Lopatcong and Pohatcong and Alpha Borough.

Wyant said it will be up these four municipalities if the increase will be passed along to their sewer users or absorbed partially or fully by each municipality.

The proposed rate increase will be discussed in more detail during the Dec. 11 Town Council meeting. During that meeting, a discussion is planned to be held with the neighboring municipalities receiving sewer service from Phillipsburg.

Wyant said it is important to restore a funding “cushion” to account for both foreseen and unforeseen sewer utility expenses, such as an approximate $1 million loss in equipment as a result of Hurricane Sandy. While Wyant is hopeful most of this loss will be covered by insurance, he noted the importance of “building back the capital cushion that has been depleted as time goes on.”

Council President Randy Piazza Sr. said he agrees with the 2 percent rate adjustment.

Like the mayor, he noted the importance of having capital on hand for the 60-year-old utility.

“Unforeseen things happen and we have to be ready for them,” Piazza said.