Sussex Borough sets new water-rate system

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SUSSEX BOROUGH — The Sussex Borough Council approved changing water and sewer rates at its June 4 meeting by a 5-1 vote.

Councilwoman Annette Stendor cast the lone dissenting vote.

The proposed rates will use Equivalent Dwelling Units as the minimum fixed charge and a proposed per gallon charged for every gallon of water used. The EDU is equivalent to a single family house with a water meter. The borough’s calculation is based on a statewide basic formula, with some local modifications. - The majority of lengthy public comment came from representatives, owners and residents of: Wilson Manor, Alpine Village and other apartments. Only one single-family dwelling person commented at the meeting.

Those responsible or living in apartments were against the rate changes. The one single family dwelling person present thanked the Council for the rate changes.

One apartment owner said the rate change on the water side is “not quite fair to my tenants who never go over 10,000 gallons of water.”

Councilman Salvatore Lagattuta said water bills are not paying for the water expenses.

“Before the little old lady with sewer in Sussex was subsidizing the little old lady in Wantage’s water bill,” he said.

Bret Giammco said the allocations per house were not fair. He said the Sussex rates are “through the roof.” He also wondered, “Who is fighting this battle with (Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority)?"

Councilwoman Linda Masson said regardless of the flow amount to the county MUA, the borough is charged a sewer allocation. If it goes over, the borough is fined. Normally, the borough uses about half of its sewer allocation.

Twenty years ago, the borough negotiated to pay the minimum allocation for 312,000 gallons. Today, the flow is normally 280,000 gallons.

Giammco said that he is in a union where they negotiate every three years.

"There is not a contract like that unless you sign something with the devil to go indefinitely," he said.

Masson confirmed that the contract was negotiated 20 years ago and will go on indefinitely.

Another apartment owner recommended consumption-based billing. The EDU system creates an imbalance.

In the past, apartments ranging from 68 units to 132 units could be billed the same minimum charge as a single-family house.

Masson explained the borough has to pay for the allocation regardless of if it is used. That includes the debt and to the county MUA

One single-family homeowner thanked the council for the change while another resident said he would move out of the borough due to the change.

Mayor Jonathan Rose said the new rates would go into effect beginning the next quarter, with the third-quarter bills.

Lagattuta said the council will monitor and tweak the rates. The single-family home is about 70 percent of the rate payers in Sussex.

“The Borough changed the rate structure because it was not fair,” he said.

Councilwoman Georgeanna Stoll said the rate changes will benefit the whole borough. She wants what is best and fair for the borough.

Stoll also added that a single family house not using 10,000 gallons should not pay the same minimum amount as an apartment building of 30 apartments.

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